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An Anthology compile J by 
R L Weber and edited b> R Mcnjoza 

A random walk in science 

The Compiler 

Robert L Weber (deceased) drew on long years of experience as 
an educator, author and editor to illustrate the humour and 
humanism in science to prove that the subject can be 
entertaining as well as enlightening. He was Associate 
Professor of physics at The Pennsylvania State University, and 
the author of more than a dozen books. He served on the 
boards of scientific and scholarly publications and regularly 
reviewed books for a wide range of scientific publications. 
Dr Weber received his BA at Yale University and his PhD at 
The Pennsylvania State University. Sadly, he died in 1997. 

The Editor 

Professor Eric Mendoza became interested in education while at 
the University of Manchester. He was mainly responsible for 
reforming the physics syllabus at Manchester and later at the 
University College of North Wales, and he is now furthering his 
interest in education at the Israel Science Teaching Centre at the 
Hebrew University, Jerusalem. 

Robert Weber continued to gather humorous stories, anecdotes, 
verse and cartoons, producing two further anthologies More 
Random Walks in Science (Institute of Physics Publishing, 1982) 
and Science with a Smile (Institute of Physics Publishing, 1992). 

7 think I can guarantee that virtually every reader will find 
something to tickle his or her funny bone within these volumes' 

Physics Today 

A random walk 
in science 

An anthology compiled 

by the late R L Weber (1913-1997) 

Edited by E Mendoza 

With a Foreword by William Cooper 

Institute of Physics Publishing 
Bristol and Philadelphia 

This selection copyright © 1973 The Institute of Physics 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in 
a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, 
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior 
permission of the publisher. Multiple copying is permitted in accordance with 
the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency under the 
terms of its agreement with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and 

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. 

ISBN 0 85498 027 X (hbk) 
0 7503 0649 1 (pbk) 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data are available 

First published 1973 (hbk) 

Reprinted 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1995 
Reprinted as a paperback 1999, 2001 

Compiled by Professor R L Weber 

of the Pennsylvania State University, USA and edited by 

Professor E Mendoza of The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 

Designed by Bernard Crossland 

Produced by K J Hall and D Emerson 

Text set in 12 pt Barbou and 11 pt Times New Roman 

Production: Clare McGurrell, Sarah Plenty and Jenny Troyano 
Commissioning Editor: Michael Taylor 
Cover Design: Jeremy Stephens 
Marketing Executive: Colin Fenton 

Originally published by The Institute of Physics, 76-78 Portland Place, 
London WIN 3DH 

1987 edition printed by litho from previous copy and bound in Great Britain 
by The Bath Press, Avon 

This edition published by Institute of Physics Publishing, wholly owned by 
The Institute of Physics, London 

Institute of Physics Publishing, Dirac House, Temple Back, Bristol BS1 6BE, 

US Office: Institute of Physics Publishing, The Public Ledger Building, Suite 
1035, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA 

This edition printed in the UK by J W Arrowsmith Ltd, Bristol 



I must say, clever men are fun. It struck me afresh, just reading a 
sample The Institute of Physics sent me in advance of contribu- 
tions to A random walk in science. (Naturally the sample was repre- 
sentative.) Fun— that's not, necessarily, to say funny; though some 
of the contributions are very funny. Fun, as I'm defining it for the 
moment in my own lexicon, arises from a play of intellectual high 
spirits, or high intellectual spirits. (I'm not fussy about which 
order the words come in, being neither Wittgensteinian about what 
can and can't be said, nor French about linguistic precision— lots 
of things worth saying can only be said loosely.) 

In fact spiritedly high intellect also gods for what I'm trying to 
get at. With high intelligence there's nearly always an overflow of 
intellectual energy, free energy available for vitalizing any old 
topic that comes up, or, better still, for incarnating new ones out of 
the empyrean. It's the play of this free intellectual energy that 
makes the person who generates it fun to read, fun to be with. Per- 
haps I ought to confess, now, that my private subtide for this 
volume is 'Physicists At Play'. 

So while readers of A random walk in science are being promised 
fun, the contributors find themselves being called clever. Well, 
there's something in that. It has always seemed clear to me that 
level of intelligence is much more decisive in the sorting-out of 
scientists than it is in the sorting-out of, say, writers. (I've chosen 
writers for comparison with scientists so as to keep sight of the 
'creative' element in what they both do.) My general impression, 
for instance in moving between a group of scientists and a com- 
parable group of writers, comparable in distinction of talent and 
reputation, is of a drop in the average IQ. To take a specific case: 
I should have thought you simply couldn't be a first-rate physicist 
without a first-rate intellectual equipment; whereas you can be a 
first-rate novelist— quite a few have been. 

Such as who ? you ask. Trying to avoid the most obvious dangers 
in the present circumstances, by going to the top flight in distinc- 
tion and choosing a scientist who's not a physicist and a novelist 
who's not alive, I suggest juxtaposing Jacques Monod and D H 
Lawrence. (I know that the possession of highest intellect is not 
what we primarily require of a novelist; that's not what this argu- 
ment's about.) I feel that by any of the criteria we normally accept 
for judging intellectual power and range, Lawrence, though he's 
pretty well bound to be placed in the top flight of novelists, simply 
has to come in a flight below Monod as a mind. (It's particularly 
amusing to imagine the rage of Lawrencians at the demotion of 



their prophet as a mind— when the message which they receive 
from him with such reverence and passion is patently anti-mind !) 
And if one comes down the flights from the top, I think a similar 
juxtaposing on almost any of them would most frequently give the 
edge to the scientist, certainly to the practitioner of the 'exact' 

Having then fulfilled the two prime requirements for a Fore- 
word-writer— (i) to promise the readers and (ii) to flatter the 
authors— I can get on with saying something more about the con- 
tributions. For instance, what sort of fun is it that characterizes 
physicists at play ? It's the fun of playing tricks with conceptual 
thought— misapplying concepts, parodying them, standing them 
on their heads. I have a special weakness, myself, for tricks being 
played with the concepts of mathematics and symbolic logic— 'A 
Contribution to the Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting', 
which shows how to trap a lion in the Sahara sheerly by manipu- 
lating ideas, suits me excellently. 

But the whole book is far from being confined to playing with 
mathematics and symbolic logic. There's a selection of in-jokes by 
physicists at their most worldly— in-jokes that can readily be under- 
stood by non-physicists, since a lot of them are making sarcastic 
fun of how the world works, on which physicists cast a very beady 
eye as a result of having to cope with it— where 'cope' usually 
means 'crash through it in order to get some physics done.' 0 & M 
wreaking their uncomprehending will at the Festival Hall ; 'Why 
we should go to the Moon' (because 'the world is running danger- 
ously short of unprocessed data'); a 'Proposal for a Coal Reactor'. 
And jokes at their own expense— the gamesmanship of physicists; 
cynical glossaries of the professional terms they use, and so on. 
Very funny and, indeed, very worldly. 

Yet this fun is still essentially located more in the realm of the 
conceptual than of the human. (If you asked me now to explain in 
one sentence what I mean by the 'human', I should say it had 
something to do with seeing the fun— and the pathos, as well— in a 
single fellow mortal's being wholly and sheerly himself.) And 
worldliness, when you come to think about it, incorporates a high 
degree of conceptualizing, of abstracting from general human be- 
haviour within narrow, if amusing, terms of reference. So the 
expression of physicists at play hangs together quite remarkably. 
A random walk in science keeps one startlingly within a perimeter, 
a perimeter within which a set of clever men are having a high old 
time with rational concepts. Their high spirits and confidence are 


particularly startling to anyone who spends much time outside 
the perimeter, especially in the part of the culture which is occu- 
pied with the arts. 

Why is it startling ? What is it that enables a set of clever men to 
live way out there, having a high old intellectual time, on their 
own ? I can only put forward a personal interpretation— at the risk 
of provoking rage on another front. Let me put it this way: it's 
easy to say what's inside the perimeter and it's pretty stunning, at 
that. What is not inside it, as it strikes me, is what I should call a 
deep sense of the darker side of existence, of the tragic nature of 
the single human being's fate— and, in this context, all that hinges 
on a sense of how slight, how desperately slight is the hold of 
rationality on the way we behave. 

There are two things I don't mean by that. The first is that 
physicists don't have a sense of cosmic danger: they do. Once 
upon a time, The Bomb : now, Ecological Disaster. But a sense of 
cosmic danger is a totally different thing from a tragic sense of life. 
The second is that physicists are unaware of irrationality in the 
individual behaviour of other men and even, at a pinch, of them- 
selves: they are— but in the impatient, exasperated manner of men 
who have not comprehended that irrationality is our basic 
natural state. 

They recognize that the crucial step on the way to scientific 
discovery is not rational, but intuitive. Of course. But the scien- 
tific discipline teaches one how to evaluate one's intuitions. 'The 
student of physics has his intuition violated so repeatedly,' writes 
one of the contributors, with a sort of careless starkness, 'that he 
comes to accept it as a routine experience.' I take it that all 
physicists would more or less agree with him. I wonder if they 
have any intimations of the growing proportion of people in the 
world now, certainly in the culture we ourselves are living in, who 
would regard that statement as arising from a view of life which to 
them is anathema ? The devaluation of intuition by mind— evil. 

A random walk in science begins with a challenge, at once playful 
in expression and sound at heart, about the Two Cultures. It 
recognizes the polarization that has taken place, and suggests that 
it would have been less likely to have taken place round scientific 
and non-scientific elements in the culture — or having done so, it 
would be more likely to disappear— if we English had used the 
word (and the idea of) 'science' broadly to include all scholarship, 
as the Dutch use the word 'wetenschapperi '. It's an amusing idea. 
But if we used 'science' as he suggests, we should dilute the mean- 



ing of the word and have to find a new one to signify what we 
currently call science. What's more, the Two Cultures polariza- 
tion happens unfortunately to be just as serious in Holland, any- 

On the other hand, the idea jives unexpectedly with the 
argument I'm leading up to. The polarization into the Two Cultures 
exists; but in my view the form in which it is now manifesting 
itself is deeper and more alarming than appeared when the poles 
were seen to be science and non-science. They are now manifest- 
ing themselves in a form that shows our situation to be more grave 
than it would be if the poles were even wetenschappen and non- 
wetenschappen. They are mind and anti-mind. 

The situation is not Alexandrian, because history doesn't happen 
twice in the same form; but to think about ancient Alexandria and 
now is deeply disturbing. In the earlier culture they had marvel- 
lous science going on, within its perimeter scientists in high spirits 
and high confidence; and outside ... a lapse into complex and 
arcane fatuity. What do we have now? Excellent science and 
technology, its practitioners within its perimeter sparkling with 
high spirits and confidence, living by mind; and elsewhere . . . 
lapse into the fatuity of headless exaltation of the instinctual life, 
the irrational life— or, to use the current terminology, the 'authen- 
tic' life — anti-mind. 

Lawrence was devoting his art to it fifty years ago. Things have 
moved on since then. In the present we have, for example, the 
turning away from learning history, because knowing what hap- 
pened in the past inhibits one from acting according to instinct 
now; the regarding of a schizophrenic's madness as his sanity— to 
live with him we must enter it; the idiot reverence for drug- 
experiences, or any other experiences, that 'blow' the mind. And 
so on, and on. 

Thus I summarize my argument. Only men who have a sense of 
the darker side of human existence, who know in their bones how 
slight is the grasp of rationality on the instinctive forces that drive 
us and have intimations of the sterile fatuity that would ensue from 
being overwhelmed by them— only such men can truly cope with 
the danger that faces the intellectual world. Reading A random 
walk in science I was entertained, pleased, stimulated, roused to 
admiration— and troubled. Physicists at play. Are they unconscious 
of their fate ? 



v Foreword William Cooper 

xv Introduction Robert L Weber and Eric Mendo^a 

i When does jam become marmalade ? HB G Casimir 

3 In defence of pure research J J Thomson 

4 Keeping up with science LFeleki 

6 Sir Francis Simon N Kurd 

7 Cuts by the score Anon 

7 The theorist 

8 The theory of practical joking— its relevance to physics R V Jones 

15 New university— 1229 Lynn Thorndike 

1 5 The Smithsonian Institution Lewis Selye 

16 Atmospheric extravaganza JohnHerapath 

20 Little Miss MufFet FWinsor 

21 The Academy Jonathan Swift 

22 The triumph of reason BertListon Taylor 

23 American Institute of Useless Research 

24 Remarks on the quantum theory of the absolute zero of 
temperature G Beck, H Bethe and WRie^kr 

25 A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting 
H Petard 

28 Fission and superstition HMK 

29 The uses of fallacy PaulV Dunmore 

33 Basic science Anon 

34 On the nature of mathematical proofs JoelE Cohen 

36 Arrogance in physics Laura Fermi 

37 What do physicists do ? 

38 Physics terms made easy Anon 

39 Humphry Davy's first experiments Humphry Davy, EN da CAndrade 
42 Maxwell's aether James Clerk Maxwell 



43 Style in physics Ludwig Bolt^mann 

44 An Experiment to prove that Water is more elastic than Air 
John Clayton 

46 Three jolly sailors FWinsor 

46 HA Rowland Paul Kirkpatrick 

47 Confrontation Maurice Caullery and Andree Tetry 

48 Getting bubble chambers accepted by the world of professional 
physicists Donald A Glaser 

48 Bunsen burner Henry Roscoe 

50 Rutherford and Nature's whispers A S Russell 

51 The organization of research— 1920 JVM Wheeler 

52 Solar eclipse Reinhold Gerhar^ 

5 3 How N ewton discovered the law of gravitation James E Miller 

59 Graduate students PM S Blacken 

59 Epigrams Alexander Pope and Sir John Collins Squire 

60 Take away your billion dollars Arthur Roberts 

61 Standards for inconsequential trivia Philip A Simpson 

62 How radar began APRowe 

64 Building research R V Jones 

65 Perils of modern living HPFurth 

66 Predictions and comments 

68 Little Willie Dorothy Rickard 

69 Which units of length ? Pamela Anderton 

70 Alpher, Bethe and Gamow R A Alpher and R Herman 

71 Electromagnetic units: 1 

71 Electromagnetic units: 2 HB G Casimir 

73 British Units 

74 Therapy J P Joule 

75 Infancy of x-rays GEMJauncey 
j6 Faraday lectures Michael Faraday 


77 Nrays R WWood 

80 My initiation L Rosen/eld 

83 Frank J ewe tt Paul E Klopsteg 

84 Inertia of a broomstick Gaston Tissandier 

8j Pneumatic experiment Lady Holland, James Gillray 

85 The high standard of education in Scotland Sir IV L Bragg 

86 Theoretical zipperdynamics HJZipkin 

89 Atomic medicine John H Lawrence 

90 100 authors against Einstein A von Brunn 

92 Ultraviolet catastrophe HPoincare 

93 Flatland: a romance of many dimensions Edwin A Abbott 

94 Schools of physics 

95 How a theoretical physicist works VBereiinsky 
98 The art of finding the right graph paper SARudin 

100 On the imperturbability of elevator operators : LVII John 

1 03 The analysis of contemporary music using harmonious oscillator 
wave functions HJLipkin 

104 Researchers' prayer Anon 

105 Turboencabulator J H Quick 

106 Heaven is hotter than Hell 

107 On the feasibility of coal-driven power stations O R Frisch 
109 Bedside manner 

no A theory of ghosts D A Wright 

115 A stress analysis of a strapless evening gown 

117 Two classroom stories Robert Weinstock 

118 Murphy's law DLKlipstein 

1 1 9 Thermoelectric effect 

120 A glossary for research reports C D Graham Jr 
122 Why we must go to the Moon Charles G Tierney 



123 Face to face with metrication Norman Stone 

124 Life on Earth (by a Martian) Paul A Weiss 

xyj The high energy physics colouring book H J Lipkin 

139 Snakes and Ladders P J Duke 

139 Do-it-yourself CERN Courier writing kit 

141 Gulliver's computer Jonathan Swift 

143 Haiku 

144 Textbook selection Malcolm Johnson 

145 Computer, B.Sc. (failed) EMendo^a 

146 Collective names in basic sciences Anon 

1 47 The Chaostron. An important advance in learning machines 
J B Cadwallader-Cohen, W W Zysic^k and R R Donelley 

1 50 Physics is too young William Whewell 

151 Yes, Virginia VE Eaton 

153 How to learn Lewis Carroll 

1 54 The nature of evidence Isaac Todhunter 
1 5 5 School leaving exam 

1 5 6 Where to hold nuclear spectroscopy conferences in Russia 

1 5 7 Typical examination questions as a guide to graduate students 
studying for prelims H J Lipkin 

1 59 Big Science and Lesser Sciences PM S Blacken 

160 Oral examination procedure SD Mason 

161 Fluorescent yield ArthurHSnell 

162 Slidesmanship DH Wilkinson 

167 A conference glossary David Kritchevsky and R J Van der Wal 

1 68 Valentine from a Telegraph Clerk $ to a Telegraph Clerk $ 
James Clerk Maxwell 

169 Enrico Fermi Emilio Segre 

169 The parrot and the carrot R WWood 

170 The bee, the beet and the beetle RWWood 

170 Absent-minded Henry Roscoe 

171 The Mason-Dixon line 

173 Toothed wheels 

174 The transit of Venus Jeremiah Horrox 

177 Lines inspired by a lecture on extra-terrestrial life J D GM 

178 Postprandial: Ions mine JJEDurack 

1 79 The trial of Galileo F Sherwood Taylor 

187 Newton and Facts D Bentley 

1 88 John Dalton's discovery of his colour blindness 

189 Paris, May 1832 Ian Stewart, Hippolyte Carnot 
191 Pulsars in poetry Jay M Pasachoff 

191 Clouds, 1900 Lord Kelvin 

192 An awkward incident Sir WL Bragg 

192 Shoulders of giants Robert K Merton 

193 Rotating dog William Garnett 
193 Answer man 

193 Home run 

195 The pulsar's Pindar Dietrich E Thomsen and Jonathan Eberhart 

196 Walter Nernst Edgar WKut^scher 

197 Self-frustration R V Jones 

199 Unsung heroes— I : J-B Moire Simplicius 

201 Unsung heroes— II : Juan Hernandez Torsion Herrera Col. 
Douglas Lindsay and Capt. James Ketchum 

201 Wolfgang Pauli Eugene P Wigner 

202 Scientific method Adolph Baker 

203 Pebbles and Shells Isaac Newton 

204 Acknowledgements 



It is sad that it should seem necessary today to rescue scientists 
from the unattractive stereotypes and caricatures with which they 
are encumbered. Physics, the basic science, seems most in need of 
humanizing. Older philosophies of science pretended that physics 
proceeds from certainty to certainty through the performance of 
critical experiments unambiguously interpreted. This created the 
impression that physicists themselves have no room for doubt, 
that they have no emotions and no time for laughter— in short, 
that they are inhuman. 

Much of the misunderstanding of scientists and how they work 
is due to the standard format of articles in scientific journals. With 
their terse accounts of successful experiments and well-supported 
conclusions they show little of the untidy nature of research at the 
frontiers of knowledge. In self defence, there has grown up a 
derisive, sometimes cynical attitude of self criticism by scientists, 
a subculture which transcends geographical and political barriers. 
Experimenters' gibes at the uselessness of theoreticians, glossaries 
of the real meanings behind well-worn phrases, disillusion at the 
corrupting effect of the vast sums of money lavished on govern- 
ment research laboratories, can be found in articles from Russia or 
America, Britain or continental Europe. On the other hand Ruther- 
ford's sensitivity to Nature's whispers, Boltzmann's sense of the 
sublime in Maxwell's work, or poor William Crabtree's emotion 
on seeing the transit of Venus, these are attitudes and feelings 
which every scientist knows are at the centre of scientific research. 
They rarely show through the language of our reports. 

A flourishing underground press has grown up in science. A 
typical journal is the Worm Runner's Digest. 'It started,' says Dr 
J V McConnell, as 'my own personal joke on the Scientific Estab- 
lishment although it has turned out to be more of a joke on me. 
I've lost grants because of the Digest . . .'. After twelve years of 
uninhibited life, the Digest is published in two parts. The front half 
records bona fide research under an acceptable tide, The Journal 
oj Biological Research; it is noticed in Psychological Abstracts, Bio- 
logical Abstracts, and Chemical Abstracts. But the second half of the 
Digest remains 'the Playboy of the scientific world,' its pages 
printed upside down to help distinguish fact from fantasy. It is 
the house organ of an anti-Scientific movement. McConnell's con- 
viction is that 'most of what is wrong with science these days can 
be traced to the fact that scientists are willing to make objective 
and dispassionate studies of any natural phenomen at all— except 
their own scientific behaviour. We know considerably more about 



flatworms than we do about people who study flatworms. The 
Establishment never questions its own motives; the true humorist 
always does.' 

In this book I have drawn heavily on such journals and on other 
informal writings by scientists. It is a collection of comments, 
both lighthearted and serious, by scientists. They reveal their 
intensely human ambitions, frustrations and elation; they record 
some changing attitudes within science and mirror the interactions 
of science with society. 

I hope you find as much pleasure in reading these pages as I did 
in assembling them. 

Professor Eric Mendoza, who kindly consented to serve as The 
Institute of Physics' Honorary Editor for this book, has been an 
enthusiastic and careful editor and has brought additional items to 
the collection. It has been a pleasure to work with him, though at a 
distance; I express my gratitude for his substantial help. 


This anthology started life as a collection of jokes about physics. 
Physicists, thought Professor Weber, took themselves too seri- 
ously and would benefit from the opportunity to laugh at them- 
selves. But it was not long before he added another more serious 
ingredient and broadened the scope to include other subjects close 
to physics. The manuscript came to be entided 'Humour and 
Humanism in Science' and it was in this form that it was submitted 
to The Institute of Physics. It seemed to me, however, that a 
collection overwhelmingly drawn from the twentieth century 
lacked those deeper notes— the graver modes, Rayleigh would 
have called them— with which physics, with its long and turbulent 
history, so resonates. The character of the book gradually changed 
as many cynical wisecracks from today's whizz kids gave place to 
more measured pronouncements from the giants of our history, 
and the more obscure in-jokes were discarded in favour of dramas 
and tragedies from the past. 

This is not a scholarly book; it has been arranged for dipping 
into, for casual reading, and many of the articles have been con- 
densed. To that end, it has not been formally divided into sections 
or chapters as textbooks are; rather each article is loosely related 


to the ones near it. It is hoped that if the book loses in orderliness 
it will gain in freshness, and that perhaps the specialist physicist, 
the earnest sociologist, and the young reader may thereby be 
lured into browsing over topics they might otherwise ignore. 

Dr Dorothy Fisher and the editorial staff at The Institute of 
Physics in Bristol have been both stimulating and patient. Mr Hall 
and Dr Emerson in particular have guided production and accu- 
mulated the copyright permissions, which for a manuscript of 
about 150 separate items is no light undertaking. The designer, 
Bernard Crossland, evolved a design of sufficiently great adapt- 
ability, at first a seemingly impossible task. To all these people, 
and to the librarians who have helped us trace obscure material 
and those authors who have contributed special articles, Professor 
Weber and I are deeply grateful. 



When does jam become marmalade? 


A speech delivered 
by the author at a 
dinner of the 
Institute of 
Engineers, 1965. 

I should like to speak to you for a moment about the problem of 
two cultures so eloquently formulated by C P Snow and more 
specifically about jam and marmalade. 

A few years ago I visited Istanbul. I was staying at the Hilton 
Hotel, one of those places that are now all over the world setting 
a rather high standard of what I consider a rather inferior way of 
living. One morning at breakfast a very British lady was sitting at 
a table next to mine. 'Waiter, can I have some marmalade ?' she 
asked peremptorily. A smiling Turkish waiter appeared with a 
huge tray heavily loaded with some thirty or forty kinds of fruit 
preserve. The lady looked at them, her face expressing both un- 
belief and disgust and then said contemptuously: 'Oh, no, those are 
jam, not marmalade, we never eat jam for breakfast.' It may strike 
you as funny that this struck me as funny. The point is that in the 
Dutch language jam is considered to be a very general genus of 
which orange marmalade is just one subspecies. The strongest 
statement a Dutchman could possibly make would be: 'The only 
jam I take at breakfast is orange marmalade' and that is much less 
categorical. Now it is a curious fact that what may appear to be an 
arbitrary linguistic convention has a strong influence on our way of 
thinking. Ask a Dutchman and he will patiently explain that 
marmalade is made like any other jam by boiling crushed or cut up 
fruit with sugar, that its taste is both sweet and sour, that it is 
viscous and sticky. Ask an Englishman and he will equally 
patiendy explain how a particular taste and texture make marma- 
lade a very different thing. 

Perhaps it is the amazing richness of the language which tempts 
the English to make distinctions where others look for general 
concepts. Let me give a few examples. There are circumstances 
when it may be very impolite to call a hound a dog or a pony a 
horse, and a man may not care for billiards but enjoy an occasional 
game of snooker. I once read an amusing article— by an English- 
man of course— on common American misconceptions about 
England. There was a passage that went roughly as follows : '(A 
common misconception is) that our beer is sour, flat and luke- 
warm. On the contrary our beer is bitter, still and served with the 
chill off. It is served that way because that is the way to serve it. 
There exists a stuff called lager so tasteless that it can be cooled 
without damage and so unsubstantial that a few bubbles make no 
difference. But we don't drink lager, we drink beer.' 

A more serious example. We continentals interpret the word 
'Europe' to include the British Isles; the British usually do not. I 


When does jam become marmalade .' 

once saw side by side the French and English versions of a book 
on birds, one being a verbatim translation of the other. The 
French book was called 'Les oiseaux Europeens,' the English 
version: 'Birds of Europe and the British Isles.' I hope that this 
linguistic habit will not lead us to emphasize differences and to 
forget how much we all have in common in historical and cultural 
background and in the roots of our languages and civilization. 

Now I should like to suggest that the so-called difference be- 
tween the two cultures is largely a case of jam and marmalade. 
There exists in Dutch, in German, in the Scandinavian languages, 
a word Wetenschappen, Wissenschaften, Videnskaber that in- 
cludes all branches of learning. In English science usually refers to 
the natural sciences only. And true enough: what happened with 
marmalade happens here. We Dutchmen will emphasize the 
common elements in all wetenschappen: the collecting and syste- 
matic arranging of data, the search for general principles and for 
relations between initially unrelated subjects, the willingness to 
dedicate one's efforts to the pursuit of objective knowledge and 
so on. A scholar and a natural scientist are both 'wetenschappelijk' 
because they accept similar criteria, have in many ways a similar 
attitude. On the other hand, just as the conventional use of 
English tends to strengthen the differences in appreciation for jam 
and marmalade or for beer and lager it also leads to overemphasiz- 
ing the differences between the two branches of learning. But 
whereas the lady who refuses to eat any kind of jam at breakfast 
is only mildly ridiculous, the scholar who says he detests any kind 
of science is not only ridiculous: his attitude is decidedly harmful. 
Harmful because it encourages those who are responsible for 
decisions that may determine the fate of mankind to be inten- 
tionally ignorant about the material background against which 
their decisions should be taken. Harmful also because authors and 
scholars, while gladly using modern commodities, fail to see the 
philosophical implications of science and tend to deny scientists 
and engineers their legitimate place in culture. 

But we, scientists and engineers, we know that we have not only 
created material things and above all we know that we contribute 
to better relations between nations and peoples. For us it is easy to 
have understanding of and objective appreciation for the work of 
others, and from there it is not difficult to arrive also at human 
understanding and appreciation. 

Kipling has said that 'there is neither East nor West, Border nor 
Breed nor Birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though 


they come from the end of the earth.' I do not hold with that: I 
profoundly distrust those strong men. But replace 'two strong 
men' by 'two competent electrical engineers' and though you 
slighdy mar the rhythm you considerably improve the content. 

In defence of pure research 

From J J Thomson 
and the Cavendish 
Laboratory in His 
Thomson (New 
York: Doubleday) 
1965 pp 167-8. 


[The following is from a speech Sir J J Thomson made on behalf of a 
delegation from the Conjoint Board of Scientific Studies in 1916 to Lord 
Crewe, then Lord President of the Council^ 

By research in pure science I mean research made without any 
idea of application to industrial matters but solely with the view of 
extending our knowledge of the Laws of Nature. I will give just 
one example of the 'utility' of this kind of research, one that has 
been brought into great prominence by the War — I mean the use 
of x-rays in surgery. Now, how was this method discovered ? It 
was not the result of a research in applied science starting to find 
an improved method of locating bullet wounds. This might have 
led to improved probes, but we cannot imagine it leading to the 
discovery of x-rays. No, this method is due to an investigation in 
pure science, made with the object of discovering what is the 
nature of Electricity. The experiments which led to this discovery 
seemed to be as remote from 'humanistic interest'— to use a much 
misappropriated word— as anything that could well be imagined. 
The apparatus consisted of glass vessels from which the last drops 
of air had been sucked, and which emitted a weird greenish light 
when stimulated by formidable looking instruments called in- 
duction coils. Near by, perhaps, were great coils of wire and iron 
built up into electro-magnets. I know well the impression it made 
on the average spectator, for I have been occupied in experiments 
of this kind nearly all my life, notwithstanding the advice, given 
in perfect good faith, by non-scientific visitors to the laboratory, 
to put that aside and spend my time on something useful. 

[G P Thomson says that he has heard his father use another example, that 
if Government laboratories had been operating in the Stone Age we should 
have wonderful stone axes but no-one would have discovered metals/] 


Keeping up with science 


Condensed from 
paper in Impact of 
Science on Society 
Published by 

With the invention of the steam engine the hell of science broke 
loose. Since then one admirable discovery has followed the other. 
Today no human brain is capable of comprehending the whole of 
science. Today there are part-sciences with part-scientists. Man 
has hopelessly surpassed himself. He can be proud of this, but he 
is no longer able to keep track of his own achievements. 

Our life has become so mechanized and electronified that one 
needs some kind of an elixir to make it bearable at all. And what is 
this elixir if not humour ? It is decisive for the present and future 
of mankind whether humour and science can keep in step, 
whether there will be time to tell a joke during a journey between 
two planets, and whether the savant will feel like laughing while 
he is making efforts to use space for peaceful purposes. 

The question 'what is humour ?' is one of extraordinary impor- 
tance; we need to clarify the basic concepts to begin with. To 
laugh at a joke without analysing it is work half done. 

The term 'humour' itself means fluid or moisture, indicating that 
already the ancient Greeks must have known both moisture and 
humour. Humour as a fluid probably served to dilute the hard 
facts of life making it possible to swallow and digest them. 
Humour is, of course, palatable even without moisture; in such 
cases we are dealing with dry humour. 

One of the characteristics of humour is that it eludes definition. 
Some partial truths about humour are nevertheless recognizable 
and I will now cite them. 

For instance, it is evident that humour is difficult to write and 
therefore is certainly not 'light' literature. 

Parody is a humorous genre of literature. A really good parody 
or take-off is better than the original. 

The basis of acid humour is ulcers. Many humorists have ulcers. 

Truth is often humorous simply because it is so unusual that it 
makes people laugh. 

The greatest blessing of humour is that it relaxes tension. It is 
really indispensable in situations when there is nothing left but a 
big laugh (cf current history). 

Just as the disease of the horse can be demonstrated on a single 
mare at a veterinary school, by the same token a single joke is 
suitable for the analysis of all the tenets of the science of humoro- 
logy. I myself discovered this important fact by mere chance. I 
told a joke to an acquaintance, who is, by the way, an officer of 
the Humorology Department of the Hungarian Academy of 
Sciences . . . 


'Well, do you know the one,' I began, 'in which two geologists 
converse in a cafe ? One of them says: "Yes, unfortunately fifteen 
billion years from now the Sun will cool, and then all life on 
Earth will perish." A card-player nearby has been half listening 
to the joke, and turns in terror to the geologist: "What did you 
say? In how many years will the Sun cool?" "Fifteen billion 
years," the scientist replies. The card-player lets out a sigh of 
relief: "Oh, I was afraid you said fifteen million !" ' 

When I completed the joke to the best of my histrionic ability, 
I expected the professor to laugh, for it is a delightful little joke, I 
think. However, instead of the expected smile or laugh my man 
seemed to be in a brown study— rock-bottom humiliation for a 
teller of jokes. I was just beginning to think that the professor had 
not understood the joke, which would not have been too sur- 
prising, after all, as humorology was his profession. My supposi- 
tion, however, proved to be erroneous. A few seconds later the 
professor gave an appreciative nod. 

'The joke is good,' he said. 'If we accept Aristotle's definition 
according to which the comic, the ridiculous is some fault, 
deficiency or ugliness which nonetheless causes no pain or trouble, 
we will find the joke just heard meets these criteria. The cooling of 
the Sun is certainly a deficiency, or more accurately heat defi- 
ciency, although it is not ugliness, for even a chill celestial object 
can be a very pleasing sight as there are several examples in the 
universe to demonstrate. 

'And, then, what about Hobbes's hypothesis ? In his treatise on 
the causes of laughter Hobbes pointed out that laughter is the 
feeling of pride as, seeing the weakness of others, we experience 
our own intellectual superiority. 

'The joke also satisfies the contrast theory. For, according to 
Kant, contrast is the essence of the comic. And in fact it would be 
difficult to imagine a sharper contrast than that existing between 
the ephemeral life of man and cosmic time. 

'In Schopenhauer's terms, this can also be taken as the dis- 
harmony of a concept with some realistic object with which it is 
associated. Indeed, the card-player who sighs with relief at the 
idea that he can calmly continue his card-playing until the 14 
millionth year of his life, for it will remain warm enough, enter- 
tains a most unrealistic thought within the context of a most real- 
istic idea that men like to live as long as possible and dislike to be 

'Nor is Bergson's theory of automatism left out of account, 


Keeping up with science 

because the protagonist is jolted out of the mechanically induced 
natural time sense that measures human life. 

'To sum it up, I repeat that the joke is funny. Hence I am fully 
justified in laughing at it.' 

And at this moment my friend started to laugh so hard that his 
tears flowed and he held his sides. 

It was easy to laugh in the past at the modest jokes which in- 
volved the Little Idiot, the two travelling salesmen, someone's 
mother-in-law, the drunk, or the Scotsman. Only a small surprise 
element had to be provided for the listener. A proper appreciation 
of scientific humour requires the proper scientific qualifications. 
The vital need of future generations is for a scientific education so 
they can have the incomparable surcease of humour in order to 
endure the state of perfection to which man and life will have been 
reduced by the progress of science. 

Just consider what degree of culture and education is required 
to understand the joke which is said to have practically drawn 
tears of laughter from Einstein and Oppenheimer. One photon 
asks the other photon weaving about in space: 'Can't you move 
straight ? You must be drunk again !' The other photon protests 
vehemently: 'What do you expect? Can't you see that I am 
getting soaked in a gravitational field ?' Yes, this is coming, this is 
what we have to get prepared for. 

Sir Francis Simon, low temperature physicist 


Simon was well known for his ability to clarify issues or to solve 
controversies by a single apt remark. At committee meetings his 
interventions were usually brief and to the point. On one occasion 
committee members were asked by the chairman, who was also 
in charge of the project, to agree that a certain machine be run 
at a power which was ten per cent lower than the design value. 
Simon objected, arguing that 'design value' should mean what it 
said. Thereupon the chairman remarked: 'Professor Simon, don't 
you see that we are not talking about science, but about engineer- 
ing which is an art.' Simon was persistent: 'What would happen if 
the machine were run at full power ?' 'It might get too hot.' 'But, 
Mr Chairman', came Simon's rejoinder, 'Can't artists use ther- 
mometers ?' 

From N Kurti, 
'Franz Eugen 
Simon,' Bio- 
graphical Memoirs 
of Fellows of the 
Royal Society 4, 
225 (1958). 


Cuts by the score 


NPL News 236, {Organisation and Method research is carried out to improve the efficiency 
17 (1969)- of working of groups of people. The following are extracts from a report by 

O & M after a visit to the Royal Festival Hall.] 

For considerable periods the four oboe players had nothing to do. 
Their numbers should be reduced, and the work spread more 
evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of 

All the twelve first violins were playing identical notes. This 
seems unnecessary multiplication. The staff of this section should 
be drastically cut; if a large volume of sound is required, it could 
be obtained by means of electronic amplifiers. 

Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demisemiquavers. 
This seems an excessive refinement. It is recommended that all 
notes should be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver. If this 
were done it would be possible to use trainees and lower grade 
operatives more extensively. 

There seems to be too much repetition of some musical pas- 
sages. Scores should be drastically pruned. No useful purpose is 
served by repeating on the horns a passage which has already been 
handled by the strings. It is estimated that if all redundant pas- 
sages were eliminated the whole concert time of two hours could 
be reduced to twenty minutes, and there would be no need for an 

The Conductor agrees generally with these recommendations, 
but expresses the opinion that there might be some falling-off in 
box-office receipts. In that unlikely event it should be possible to 
close sections of the auditorium entirely, with a consequential 
saving of overhead expense— lighting, attendants, etc. 

If the worst came to the worst, the whole thing could be aban- 
doned and the public could go to the Albert Hall instead. 

The theorist 

When a theoretical physicist is asked, let us say, to calculate the 
stability of an ordinary four-legged table he rapidly enough 
arrives at preliminary results which pertain to a one-legged table 
or a table with an infinite number of legs. He will spend the rest 
of his life unsuccessfully solving the ordinary problem of the table 
with an arbitrary, finite, number of legs. 

From Physicists 
continue to laugh, 
MIR Publishing 
House, Moscow 
1968. Translated 
from the Russian 
by Mrs Lorraine 
T Kapitanoff. 


The theory of practical joking — 
its relevance to physics 


At first sight there may seem little relation between physics and 
practical joking. Indeed, I might never have observed their con- 
nection but for an incidental study of the life of James Clerk 
Maxwell. Two things, among many others, struck me. The first 
was the growth of his sense of fun from the primitive joke of the 
boy of six tripping up the maid with the tea tray to the refined, 
almost theoretical, jokes of his later life. The second was his 
mastery of analogy in physical thinking: already, at the age of 
twenty-four he had written a part playful, part serious essay on 
the theory of analogy which showed two of the main features of 
his mind. On the lighter side, he pointed out the relation between 
an analogy and a pun: in the former one truth lies under two 
expressions, and in the latter two truths lie under one expression. 
Hence from the theory of analogy one can by reciprocation de- 
duce the theory of puns. To the more serious side of Maxwell's 
understanding of analogy I shall return later, but all this set me 
thinking about the possible connection between the theory of 
practical joking and physics. One factor which encouraged me 
was the high incidence of mischievous humour among physicists. 
Even Newton, it is recorded, caused trouble in his Lincolnshire 
village as a boy by flying at night a kite carrying a small lantern; 
and in this century the spritely skill of the late Professor R W 
Wood and Professor G Gamow is already legendary. While I hope 
to illustrate this paper with examples, I propose first to analyse 
(if this is not altogether too brutal a process) the essentials of a 


The crux of the simplest form of joke seems to be the production 
of an incongruity in the normal order of events. We hear the story, 
for example, of Maxwell showing Kelvin some optical experiment, 
and inviting Kelvin to look through the eyepiece. Kelvin was sur- 
prised to find that, while the phenomenon described by Maxwell 
was undoubtedly there, so was a little human figure, the incon- 
gruity, dancing about. Kelvin could not help asking 'Maxwell— 
but what is the little man there for ?' 'Have another look, Thom- 
son,' said Maxwell, 'and you should see.' Kelvin had another look, 
but was no wiser. 'Tell me, Maxwell,' he said impatiently, 'What 
is he there for ?' . . . 'Just for fun, Thomson,' replied Maxwell. 
When we consider a simple incongruity of this type, we can see 
why this form of humour is sometimes described as 'nonsense'; 
for 'sense' implies the normal order of things, and in this order an 

Part of a lecture 
published in 
Bulletin of the 
Institute of 
Physics, June 
'957, P 193- 


incongruity makes 'nonsense.' A simple incongruity in the litera- 
ture of physics is R W Wood's recording of the fact that he 
cleaned out an optical instrument by pushing his cat through it. 

Even a change of dimension is sufficient to cause an incongruity. 
Lord Cherwell has a story of a scientist at Farnborough in World 
War I, who was so dismayed by the delays in ordering commercial 
equipment that when he wanted a dark-room lamp he made a 
pencil sketch of one, to be made up by the workshop. It availed 
him little, however, because a proper engineer's drawing had by 
regulation to be made in triplicate before the workshop would 
start. Weeks elapsed, and finally after a knock on his door two 
workmen wheeled in the largest dark-room lamp ever constructed. 
In making the workshop drawing the draughtsman had left out 
one dash, with the result that intended inches became actual feet. 
One of the classic incongruities of this type is that due to Ben- 
jamin Franklin in a letter to the Editor of a London newspaper in 
1 76 j, chaffing the English on their ignorance of America: 'The 
grand leap of the Whale up the Falls of Niagara is esteemed, by 
all who have seen it, as one of the finest spectacles in Nature !' 

A variation on the simple incongruity in humour is to produce a 
congruity where incongruity is normally expected. One does not 
expect, for example, any congruity about the names of joint 
authors of scientific papers. It was therefore rather a surprise to 
find a genuine paper by Alpher, Bethe and Gamow, dated April 1 
in The Physical Review for 1948. 

A further variation of humour is produced when a false incon- 
gruity is expected by the victim, and an incongruity then genu- 
inely occurs which he promptly discounts. The late Sir Francis 
Simon had this happen to him when he was head of a laboratory in 
Germany. One night his research students were working with 
liquid hydrogen, and there was an explosion which damaged the 
laboratory some time after midnight. One of the research students 
telephoned the professor to inform him of the damage. All he 
could get from Sir Francis was an amiable 'AH right, I know what 
day it is !' It was the morning of April 1. 


Simple incongruities, direct or inverted, can be humorous enough, 
but the more advanced jokes usually involve a period of prepara- 
tion and induction, sometimes elaborate, before the incongruity 
becomes apparent. They are called hoaxes. Maxwell's jokes were 
often simple in their preparation; he is credited with having 


The theory of practical joking— its relevance to physics 

engineered the advertisement of his Inaugural Lecture at Cam- 
bridge (which is still very worth reading) in such a manner that 
only his undergraduate students heard of it, and he gave it to them 
alone. The senior members of the University merely saw that the 
new professor would deliver his first lecture on a particular day, 
and they attended in force. This lecture, however, was the first of 
his undergraduate course, and his delighted students enjoyed the 
experience of seeing Maxwell gravely expounding, though with a 
betraying twinkle in his eye, the difference between the Fahren- 
heit and Centigrade scales to men like Adams, Cayley, and Stokes. 

With some hoaxes the period of induction of the victim may be 
extended. In this type, which is probably the most interesting 
philosophically, the object is to build up in the victim's mind a false 
world-picture which is temporarily consistent by any tests that 
he can apply to it, so that he ultimately takes action on it with 
confidence. The falseness of the picture is then starkly revealed 
by the incongruity which his action precipitates. It has not proved 
difficult, for example, to persuade a Doctor of Philosophy to 
lower his telephone carefully into a bucket of water in the belief 
that he was cooperating with the engineer in the telephone 
exchange in finding a leak to earth. The prior induction consisted 
of building up in his mind a picture of something being wrong 
with his telephone by such tactics as repeatedly ringing the bell 
and then ringing off as he answered. 

As a further example, we may recall one of the works of a 
German physicist, Dr Carl Bosch, who about 1934 was working 
as a research student in a laboratory which overlooked a block of 
flats. His studies revealed that one of the flats was occupied by a 
newspaper correspondent, and so he telephoned this victim, pre- 
tending to be his own professor. The 'professor' announced that 
he had just perfected a television device which could enable the 
user to see the speaker at the other end. The newspaper man was 
incredulous, but the 'professor' offered to give a demonstration; 
all the pressman had to do was to strike some attitude, and the 
voice on the telephone would tell him what he was doing. The 
telephone was, of course, in direct view of the laboratory, and so 
all the antics of the pressman were faithfully described. The result 
was an effusive article in the next day's paper and, subsequendy, a 
bewildered conversation between the true professor and the 

The induction of the victim can take many forms. One of the 
favourite ways is an acclimatization by slow change. R W Wood 


is said to have spent some time in a flat in Paris where he dis- 
covered that the lady in the flat below kept a tortoise in a window 
pen. Wood fashioned a collecting device from a broom-handle, 
and bought a supply of tortoises of dispersed sizes. While the lady 
was out shopping, Wood replaced her tortoise by one slightly- 
larger. He repeated this operation each day until the growth of 
the tortoise became so obvious to its owner that she consulted 
Wood who, having first played a subsidiary joke by sending her 
to consult a Professor at the Sorbonne whom he considered to be 
devoid of humour, advised her to write the press. When the tor- 
toise had grown to such a size that several pressmen were taking 
a daily interest, Wood then reversed the process, and in a week 
or so the tortoise mysteriously contracted to its original dimen- 


Induced incongruities have a high place in warfare, where if the 
enemy can be induced to take incorrect action the war may be 
advantageously affected. A stratagem in which some of my war- 
time colleagues were involved is now well known as 'The man 
who never was.' These same colleagues also worked with me in 
some technical deceptions, of which one was the persuasion of the 
Germans in 1943 that our successes against the U-boats were due 
not to centimetric radar but to a fictitious infrared detector. We 
gained some valuable months while the Germans invented a 
beautiful anti-infrared paint and failed to find the true causes of 
their losses. The paint, incidentally, was a Christiansen filter of 
powdered glass in a transparent matrix over a black base. The 
filter 'peaked' in the near infrared, so that incident radiation in 
this region went through and was absorbed in the underlying 
black. Visible light was scattered back by the filter, which thus 
gave a light grey appearance to the eye, but was black to the near 
infrared. This simulated admirably the reflecting power of water, 
and thus camouflaged the U-boat. It was afterwards reported 
that the inventor of the paint was Dr Carl Bosch. 

Before I turn to the more serious side of this lecture there is one 
further story from Physics in which the exact classification of the 
incongruity can be left as a problem to be worked out at leisure. 
It concerns Lord Kelvin's lectures at Glasgow, where he used to 
fire a bullet at a ballistic pendulum; as an undergraduate at Oxford 
I had heard a story of how Kelvin missed on one occasion, with 
the result that the bullet went through a wall and smashed the 


The theory of practical joking — its relevance to physics 

blackboard of the lecturer next door. Kelvin rushed into the next 
room in some alarm to find the lecturer unscathed, and the class 
shouting 'Missed him— try again, Bill.' This experiment has now 
produced a further incident, and to avoid any doubt I wrote to 
Professor Dee for his own account of what happened. This is 
what he says : 

Tn the Quincentenary Celebrations here I had to lecture on the 
history of the Department. Of course Kelvin figured strongly in 
this. One of Kelvin's traditional experiments was to fire a rifle 
bullet at a very large ballistic pendulum. All his students regarded 
this as the highlight of the course. He was reputed to have the gun 
charged with a big dose of powder— the barrel is about half an 
inch internal diameter. I decided this experiment must be re- 
peated but there was great alarm here that the barrel would burst 
and annihilate the front row (Principal and Senate). So I decided 
to use a modern rifle. I also decided to make it a double purpose 
experiment by using Kelvin's invention of the optical lever to 
display the pendulum swing to a large audience. On the night all 
went off well. 

'The next day I repeated the whole lecture to the ordinary class. 
Mr Atkinson was the normal lecturer to this class and he had 
noticed that in referring to the dual purpose of the demonstration 
I used the phrase ". . . fitted a mirror to the pendulum so that I 
may kill two birds with one stone." After the explosion to my 
surprise a pigeon fell with a bloody splash on to a large white 
paper on the bench— our lecture room is very high. I tried to 
resolve the situation by saying "Well although Mr. Atkinson isn't 
lecturing to you today he appears to be behind the scenes some- 
where. But he does seem to have failed to notice that I said two 
birds with one stone !" Immediately a second pigeon splashed on 
the bench! Whether this was due to a slip up in Atkinson's 
mechanical arrangements or to his brilliant anticipation of how I 
would react I don't really know but I always give him the credit 
of the second explanation. 

'Anyway the students loved it but I wonder how many would 
remember about the optical lever ?' 


I want to turn now to technical deception in war, as exemplified 
by our attempts to mislead the German night defences in their 
appreciation of our raiding intentions. The method here is that 
of the induced incongruity; by a false presentation of evidence 


we wish the enemy controller to build up an incorrect but self- 
consistent world-picture, thus causing him to generate the incon- 
gruity of directing his nightfighters to some place where our 
bombers are not. I originally developed this 'Theory of Spoof 'in a 
wartime report; the salient points, which have some interest in 
physical theory, are the following. As with all hoaxes the first 
thing is to put oneself in the victim's place (indeed, a good hoax 
requires a sympathetic nature), to see what evidence he has with 
which to construct and test his world-picture. In night aerial 
warfare in 1939-45, this evidence was mainly the presence of 
deflections in the trace of the cathode ray observing tube. There- 
fore any device which would give rise to such deflections could 
provide an element of Spoof. One such device was a jammer 
which would cause fluctuating deflections all the time, thus con- 
cealing the true deflections due to the echo from an aircraft. This, 
like a smoke screen, would render the enemy unaware that you 
are where you are. A more positive technique is to provide a false 
echo, and if possible to suppress the genuine one, thus giving him 
the impression that you are where you are not. The easiest way of 
providing a false echo is to drop packets of thin metal strips, cut to 
resonate to the enemy's radar transmissions. This is, of course, 
what we did in 1943. There is little time to tell now of the fortunes 
of this technique, but the packets were extremely successful, and 
they changed the character of air warfare at night. At first, the 
German controllers confused the individual packets with aircraft; 
I can still remember the frustrated tones of one controller re- 
peatedly ordering a packet to waggle its wings as a means of 
identification. Soon, however, the Germans gave up the attempt to 
make detailed interceptions, and tried to get a swarm of fighters 
into our bomber streams. We then used many tinfoil packets 
dropped by a few aircraft to provide the appearance of spoof raids, 
which lured the nightfighters off the track of our main raids. 

As the war went on the Germans gradually found ways of dis- 
tinguishing between echoes from metal foil packets and those from 
aircraft. The packets, for example, resonated to one particular 
frequency, and therefore they had a relatively poor response to 
another frequency. If two radar stations watched on widely 
separate frequencies, a genuine aircraft echo would be present on 
both, whereas the foil echo would appear only on one. The foil 
could, of course, be cut to different lengths, but as the number of 
frequencies was increased, the amount of foil needed was greater. 
Moreover there was a pronounced Doppler effect on the echo 

J 3 

The theory of practical joking— its relevance to physics 

from an aircraft, with its high speed, but little effect on the echoes 
from the foil drifting with the wind. Thus, against an omniscient 
controller, we have to make the decoy echoes move with the 
speed of aircraft, and reflect different frequencies in the same way. 
This is easiest done by making a glider of the same size as the 
bomber. Then if we allow the enemy controller to use sound and 
infrared detectors and other aids, we find that the only decoy 
which can mislead him into thinking that there is a British bomber 
flying through his defences is another British bomber flying through 
his defences. 

Another example is one that I encountered earlier in what has 
been called 'The Batde of the Beams' in 1940. Here the problem 
was to upset the navigation of the German night bombers, when 
they were flying along radio beams to their targets. The signals 
received by the pilots telling them to steer right or left were 
counterfeited in this country, and sometimes resulted in their 
flying on curvilinear courses. However, had the pilots had un- 
limited time of observation they could have detected that there 
was something wrong, even if we had exactly synchronized our 
transmitters with those of the Germans. The bombers were in 
general flying away from their own transmitters and towards 
ours, and so they would have received a Doppler beat from which 
they could have deduced that a second transmitter was active. If 
one allows the possibility of various simple tests, which fortun- 
ately would take too long in actual warfare, one arrives at the 
conclusion that the only place for a second transmitter which will 
simulate the original exactly is coincident with the original and 
the counterfeit thus defeats its purpose. 

A physicist had a horseshoe hanging on the door of his laboratory. 
His colleagues were surprised and asked whether he believed that 
it would bring luck to his experiments. He answered: 'No, I don't 
believe in superstitions. But I have been told that it works even 
if you don't believe in it.' 

[Told by I B Cohen, the Harvard historian of physics, to S A Goudsmit 
who told it to Bohr, whose favourite story it became^] 




New University— 1 229 

[In 1229 a new University was founded at Toulouse, and this advertise- 
ment was issued (in Latin of course). Prominent among the works of 
Aristotle forbidden at Paris but studied at Toulouse was his 'Physics'^ 

The Lord Cardinal and Legate in the Realm of France, leader and 
protector and author after God and the Pope of so arduous a 
beginning . . . decreed that all studying at Toulouse, both 
masters and disciples, should obtain plenary indulgence of all their 

Further, that ye may not bring hoes to sterile and uncultivated 
fields, the professors at Toulouse have cleared away for you the 
weeds of the rude populace and the thorns of sharp sterility and 
other obstacles. For here theologians in pulpits inform their dis- 
ciples and the people at the crossroads, logicians train beginners 
in the arts of Aristotle, grammarians fashion the tongues of the 
stammering on analogy, organists smooth the popular ears with 
the sweet-throated organ, decretists extol Justinian, and physi- 
cians teach Galen. Those who wish to scrutinize the bosom of 
nature to the inmost can hear here the books of Aristotle which 
were forbidden at Paris. 

What then will you lack ? Scholastic liberty ? By no means, since 
tied to no-one's apron strings you will enjoy your own liberty. Or 
do you fear the malice of the raging mob or the tyranny of an 
injurious prince ? Fear not . . . 

As for fees, what has already been said and the fact that there is 
no fear of a failure of crops should reassure you. The courtesy of 
the people should not be passed over. So if you wish to marvel at 
more good things than we have mentioned, leave home behind, 
strap your knapsack on your back . . . 

The Smithsonian Institution 

I would like to know of what this Institution consists. I would like 
the gendeman from New York or the gentleman from Vermont to 
tell us how many of his constituents ever saw this Institution or 
ever will see it or ever want to see it ? It is enough to make any 
man or woman sick to visit that Institution. No one can expect to 
get any benefit from it. 

Lewis Selye, House of Representatives, 1868. 


Condensed from 
University Records 
of the Middle Ages, 
by Lynn Thorn- 
dike (Columbia 
University Press, 

Atmospheric extravaganza 


Condensed from [John Herapath enters the history of science as one of the progenitors of the 
Railway Journal^ 7, k.i net { c theory 0 f gases. His main interest was in fact the development of 
83 Ti^ 1 16 17 IS> ' ra ^ wa y s > i n 1 8 38 ne founded and for many years edited the Railway 

Journal. Early issues are odd assortments of financial analyses, discussions 
of mechanisms and fundamental physics — exposures, diatribes and mathe- 
matics make up the rumbustious mixture. The skit which follows is 
directed against the Atmospheric Railway, promoted by Brunei. 

In this system, the train ran on rails in the usual way but the locomotive 
power was supplied by vacuum. A pipe {23 inches in diameter on the 
London and Croydon) was laid between the rails, with a slit at the top all 
along its length. Inside the pipe was a piston, connected to the train by a 
rod running through the slit. The slit was closed by a 'valve', a leather 
strip, raised automatically as the train went by so that the rod could pass 
along. The pipe was evacuated at one end by a large pump driven by a 
steam engine and the train was driven along. The 'atmospheric' was 
particularly useful for working steep gradients; lines laid in the West of 
England and in Ireland functioned for several years, one in France till 
i860. Two problems defeated the system: the puckering of the leather 
strip under atmospheric pressure and the impossibility of finding vacuum 
grease which neither melted nor hardened with the weather {and was not 
eaten by rats).] 

The year is 1845. Samuda-later a distinguished shipbuilder and 
naval architect— and Wilkinson are two Directors of the Company. 
They are taking a party of Shareholders for a demonstration ride. 

The party is arrived, and Samuda goes into the engine-house. 
samuda: Well, have you a good vacuum? 

first man: No, Sir, we can't get a good one, nor scarcely any at all, and 

yet we have been pumping for hours. 
samuda: How is that? 

first man: Why, you know, Sir, it is one of our common occurrences. I 
have pulled the governors off, and driven the engines to 40 or 50, 
instead of 18 or 20 strokes a minute. I have actually been afraid the 
engines would fly to pieces, and the house come down upon us, 
and here we are as we were three hours ago, and getting worse 
rather than better. 

samuda: Confound it, how unlucky. We must do something today. 

second man: Sir, the Sun has melted the grease and it has all run into 
the tubes and choked them up. The valve, too, has puckered up 
and all of us together can't keep it down, though I have menon, 
the line as thick as blackberries. 

samuda : The Sun, man ! How dare the Sun melt my grease ? I tell you, my 


grease (composition, I mean) will neither soften with heat nor 
harden with cold. 

second man: That may be so among the soft 'uns in the House of Com- 
mons; but here we find it different. The grease not merely melts 
but actually runs away with a little Sun, as it has to-day. 

Wilkinson (outside): Come, Samuda, the gentlemen are impatient for the 

samuda (to the Men) : Put on all your steam; work away as hard as you can. 
Spare nothing to give us a good high speed. Now or never we 
must make a splash today. 

Goes out. The party is seated. They start, and the train crawls along at 
the rate of seven or eight miles an hour. 

shareholders: Mr. Samuda, I thought we were to go at a high speed. 
You see there goes the Dover train flying past us like the wind. 
Why, we can't be going above six or seven miles an hour. 

samuda: It ill becomes me, in my humble situation, to controvert the 
opinions of you, my illustrious masters; but I assure you we are 
going at least 20 miles an hour. 

shareholders: Why, we have been six or eight minutes going one mile. 

samuda's first satellite: No, gentlemen, pardon me; I have taken the 
time very carefully, and I find we have been just 2 minutes, 59 
seconds, a half, a quarter, and 23 hundredths of a second coming 
the mile; which being reduced, first to decimal, and then to vulgar 
fractions, and worked by a peculiar arithmetic, the invention, I 
believe (bowing), of that great man, Mr Samuda, comes out 25 
miles, a yard, an inch, and a barley-corn per hour. 

second satellite: That, gentlemen, is very near the truth. My time is 
just half a hundredth of a second more, which, by calculation, 
gives exactly seven-eighths of a barley-corn per hour less velocity. 

samuda (to the Shareholders): My honoured masters, you hear what these 
two very credible gentlemen say. Their close agreement and great 
accuracy must prove to you that they are right. Something must 
have affected your watches. I have found it so in more cases than 
one. Then as to the Dover train passing us, that was, I assure you, 
an optical illusion ; possibly a reflection of ourselves from the con- 
cave, transparent, cerulean, ether of the sky. 

shareholders: But still we should like to go a little faster; perhaps we 
shall, returning. 

samuda: Oh! yes, certainly, a 100 miles an hour, if you desire it. When 
we get the Portsmouth line, we will show you what we can do. 
We shall travel at such a rate as to do away with the electric tele- 
graph altogether. We shall become that ourselves, and expect to 


Atmospheric extravaganza 

derive a large income from that source alone. Indeedj I may here 
just tell you— but I don't wish it to be published, and above all, I 
don't want it to get to that abominable Herapath's Journal,— that 
my excellent friend, Brunei, has a most magnificent project to 
bring before the next Parliament, to be worked by Atmospheric 
power. He intends to propose a railway from here to the East 

shareholders: But how will he cross the English Channel and the 
Mediterranean ? 

samuda: Oh, they are mere trifles. He will build bridges over them. That 
too will be on the Atmospheric principle. Instead of piers the 
bridges will be supported at various points by balloons, the gas 
being drawn from a pit spontaneously generating it near New- 
castle, which may be had for merely the expense of laying down 
the pipes. I may as well here just add, that besides the profits, 
large tiger preserves in Bengal, mentioned by Dickens, and con- 
siderable tracts on the tops of the Himalayan mountains, when 
ascended, are to be given as bonuses. I would recommend you, 
gentlemen, not to lose this splendid opportunity of making your 

The shareholders are now arrived at Croydon. They examine the 

premises and the machinery while Samuda talks to Wilkinson. 
Wilkinson : What a miserable velocity we got up. A good horse would 

have walked quite as fast as we came. 
samuda: But did I not amuse them nicely about the Anglo-East-Indian 

Railway ? It was a capital thought, was it not ? 
Wilkinson : Capital indeed; but I had something to do to keep my 


First bell rings for the return, and all hie to the carriages. 
samuda (to Wilkinson) : Just cast your eye upon those fellows we came 

up with. See what part of the train they get into, and we will go 

to another, for I don't want to come into contact with them again. 

I don't like their questions. 
Wilkinson : 'Fore Gad, here they come straight to us. 
samuda: Confound them, I wish them a hundred miles off. 
shareholders: Well, Mr. Samuda, we are glad we have met with you; 

we want to talk to you about the tiger preserves and the bonuses 

on the tops of the Himalayan mountains. 
samuda: Hush! gentlemen, hush! If it should get abroad, you will be 

done out of all these fine things, clean done. You had better, I 

think, take your seats, or else the best will be gone. 


shareholders: Never mind that. We like your company better than all 
the seats, and if we are with you we shan't fare badly. 

samuda (aside to Wilkinson) : A plague on them; what shall I do ? 
Second bell rings. 

samuda (aside): Ill-luck betide them. They have evil designs, I fear. 

They get into a carriage just opposite a dial, to which Samuda very 
innocently directs attention, under the plea of finding fault with its 
place. It is a quarter past three by it. They start, and at first go at a 
better pace than coming. 
shareholders: Well, Mr. Samuda, I hope we shall get up a higher 

samuda: I hope so too, my honoured masters. 

But the journey is no faster than before. They arrive at the station. Some 
one, pointing to the clock, remarks they had only been five minutes 
coming the five miles, as it was a quarter past three when they started, 
and now it is nearly twenty minutes after. It is re-echoed by a legion of 
satellites but the Shareholders, who had carefully looked at their 
watches, declare they have been above forty minutes. Samuda hurries 

shareholders (calling after him) : We shall want shortly to have a little 
conversation with you about your bridges over the English 
Channel and Mediterranean. Capital notion that; but how do you 
keep them steady in a gale, if suspended by balloons ? 
SAMUDA (capering about in high glee at the felicitous answer he should give, 
sings out triumphantly). 

Pray, Sirs, yourselves don't alarm, 

Nothing our bridges can harm; 
Tis not tempests nor storms can them mar, 

For in Brunei's single head 

There's a vast deal more lead 

Than would anchor the earth to a star, 
Than would anchor the earth to a star. 

Chorus all 

For in Brunei's little head 

There's a vast deal more lead 
Than would anchor the earth to a star 

shareholders (laughing heartily): Your answer is indisputable. 
samuda: Then you will subscribe to our grand project— the Anglo-East- 

Indian, Brunellian, Wilkinsonian, Atmospheric Railway? 
shareholders: We'll think of it; meanwhile we should like to know 


Atmospheric extravaganza 

something of the bonus lands on the tops of the Himalayan moun- 
tains. They are five miles high. Is it not excessively cold there ? Are 
they not covered with eternal snow ? 
samuda: I assure you, you are in error. It is always beautifully fine there, 
and so warm that you would not complain after you had been there 
a little while (Aside) Anyone would be frozen to death in a few 

shareholders: Why, Laplace, Mr. Herapath, and philosophers generally 
say the heat decreases rapidly as we ascend in the atmosphere; 
and Mr. Herapath has written that it should be 32 0 below freezing 
at the top of the mountains. 

samuda: Pooh! pooh! Newton, Laplace, and Herapath, know nothing 
about it. Use your own sense, my masters, and you will see they 
are all wrong. Five miles high is above the clouds; how can there 
be any snow there ? Besides, is it not five miles nearer the Sun ? Of 
course it is; and of course it is so much warmer; and the Sun 
always shines there, and that will make it still warmer. 
Brunei walks past, and episode degenerates into a slanging match. 

From The Space 
Child's Mother 
Goose, verse by 
Frederick Winsor, 
illustration by 
Marion Parry 
(New York: 
Simon and 
Schuster) 1958. 


The Academy 


From Gulliver's 
Travels by 
Jonathan Swift, 
Part III 'A 
Voyage to Laputa' 
Chapter 5 (1727)- 

This Academy (at Lagado) is not an entire single Building, but a 
Continuation of several Houses on both Sides of a Street; which 
growing waste, was purchased and applyed to that Use. 

I was received very kindly by the Warden, and went for many 
Days to the Academy. Every Room hath in it one or more Pro- 
jectors; and I believe I could not be in fewer than five Hundred 

The first Man I saw was of a meagre Aspect, with sooty Hands 
and Face, his Hair and Beard long, ragged and singed in several 
Places. His Clothes, Shirt, and Skin were all of the same Colour. 
He had been Eight Years upon a Project for extracting Sun- 
Beams out of Cucumbers, which were to be put into Vials herme- 
tically sealed, and let out to warm the Air in raw inclement 
Summers. He told me, he did not doubt in Eight Years more, that 
he should be able to supply the Governor's Gardens with Sun- 
shine at a reasonable Rate ; but he complained that his Stock was 
low, and intreated me to give him something as an Encourage- 
ment to Ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear 
Season for Cucumbers. I made him a small Present, for my Lord 
had furnished me with Money on purpose, because he knew their 
Practice of begging from all who go to see them. 

I saw another at work to calcine Ice into Gunpowder; who like- 
wise shewed me a Treatise he had written concerning the Mallea- 
bility of Fire, which he intended to publish. 

There was a most ingenious Architect who had contrived a new 
Method for building Houses, by beginning at the Roof, and 
working downwards to the Foundation; which he justified to me 
by the like Practice of those two prudent Insects the Bee and the 

In another Apartment I was highly pleased with a Projector, 
who had found a Device of plowing the Ground with Hogs, to 
save the Charges of Plows, Cattle, and Labour. The Method is 
this : In an Acre of Ground you bury at six Inches Distance, and 
eight deep, a Quantity of Acorns, Dates, Chesnuts, and other 
Masts or Vegetables whereof these Animals are fondest; then you 
drive six Hundred or more of them into the Field, where in a few 
Days they will root up the whole Ground in search of their Food, 
and make it fit for sowing, at the same time manuring it with their 
Dung. It is true, upon Experiment they found the Charge and 
Trouble very great, and they had little or no Crop. However, it is 
not doubted that this Invention may be capable of great Improve- 


The Academy 

I had hitherto seen only one Side of the Academy, the other 
being appropriated to the Advancers of speculative Learning. 

Some were condensing Air into a dry tangible Substance, by 
extracting the Nitre, and letting the acqueous or fluid Particles 
percolate: Others softening Marble for Pillows and Pin-cushions. 
Another was, by a certain Composition of Gums, Minerals, and 
Vegetables outwardly applied, to prevent the Growth of Wool 
upon two young Lambs; and he hoped in a reasonable Time to 
propagate the Breed of naked Sheep all over the Kingdom. 

The triumph of reason 


Behold the mighty dinosaur 
Famous in prehistoric lore, 
Not only for his weight and length 
But for his intellectual strength. 
You will observe by these remains 

The creature had two sets of brains — 
One in his head {the usual place), 

The other at his spinal base. 
Thus he could reason a priori 

As well as a posteriori. 
No problem bothered him a bit 
He made both head and tail of it. 

So wise was he, so wise and solemn, 

Each thought filled just a spinal column. 
If one brain found the pressure strong 

It passed a few ideas along. 
If something slipped his forward mind 

'Twas rescued by the one behind. 
And if in error he was caught 

He had a saving afterthought. 
As he thought twice before he spoke 

He had no judgment to revoke. 
Thus he could think without congestion 

Upon both sides of every question. 
Oh, ga^e upon this model beast 
Defunct ten million years at least. 


'A Line o Type or 
Two, ' Chicago 
Tribune c. 1920 
and reprinted in 
Journal of the 
Optical Society of 
America, May 

American Institute of Useless Research 


From Review of Dear Sir 

melasfS™' The lowing material is humbly submitted by the Committee in 
(1935).' Executive Session and it is sincerely hoped that it will meet with 

your approval for publication: 

'There has long been felt in American Physics the need for an 
efficient governing body to organize the vast quantity of useless 
research that is being pursued day by day and hour by hour in the 
many institutions of higher learning in these great United States 
for which our forefathers fought and bled. With this end in view 
there has already been formed a branch of the AIUR at one of 
the aforementioned institutions of higher learning. It is the fervent 
hope of the founders that this worthy movement will spread its 
tentacles throughout the land and be an ever present aid to those 
endeavoring to unscrew the inscrutable. 

'Those who attended the inaugural meeting of the AIUR were 
fortunate in having the opportunity to hear a well-known 
authority on Banned Spectra, Professor O H Molecule, who gave 
a talk on Some Higher Harmonics in the Brass Bands. 

'In addition to holding various meetings, colloquia and seminars 
the AIUR proposes to recognize by election to fellowship workers 
in all fields who have contributed some outstanding piece of 
Useless Research. The AIUR also sponsors the following Jour- 
nals : The Refuse of Modern Physics, The Nasty-physical Journal, and 
for those who are unable to read English, the Comptes Fondues, 
and the Makeshift fur Physik.' 



For the Committee. 

American Institute of Useless Research 
M I T Branch 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
29 May, 1935 

[Yardley Beers, of the National Bureau of Standards, writes:] 

The early meetings of the society were held in the bottom of an 
elevator shaft. One of the first activities was the rewiring of the 
elevator buttons at MIT so that when you pushed the button 
marked 1 you went to the 4th floor and so on. The Institute had a 

2 3 

American Institute of Useless Research 

song: 'When night krypton and the stars argon/The moon radon 
then you xenon . . .' Typical papers were devoted to such topics 
as what to do with post holes once you had dug them, the mathe- 
matical theory of ballroom dancing, a project to change the 
moment of inertia of the earth to keep the Russians under the sun 
and fry them to a frazzle, and so on. 

Remarks on the quantum theory of the absolute zero 
of temperature 


Translated from [This is a famous spoof paper, accepted by the Editor of 'Die Naturwissen- 
Dit Naturwissen- sc haften in good faith, and published, in 1931. It pokes fun at the mystical 
5^38-9" properties claimed by Eddington and others for the number 13 y.] 

Let us consider a hexagonal crystal lattice. The absolute zero 
temperature is characterized by the condition that all degrees of 
freedom are frozen. That means all inner movements of the 
lattice cease. This of course does not hold for an electron on a 
Bohr orbital. According to Eddington, each electron has 1/a 
degrees of freedom, where a is the Sommerfeld fine structure 
constant. Beside the electrons, the crystal contains only protons 
for which the number of degrees of freedom is the same since, 
according to Dirac, the proton can be viewed as a hole in the 
electron gas. To obtain absolute zero temperature we therefore 
have to remove from the substance 2/a — 1 degrees of freedom per 
neutron. (The crystal as a whole is supposed to be electrically 
neutral; 1 neutron = 1 electron + 1 proton. One degree of 
freedom remains because of the orbital movement.) 
For the absolute zero temperature we therefore obtain 

To = - (2/a - 1) degrees. 

If we take To = —273 we obtain for 1/a the value of 137 which 
agrees within limits with the number obtained by an entirely 
different method. It can be shown easily that this result is inde- 
pendent of the choice of crystal structure. 


A contribution to the mathematical 
theory of big game hunting 

H PETARD Princeton, New Jersey 

From American 
Monthly 45 446 

This little known mathematical discipline has not, of recent 
years, received in the literature the attention which, in our 
opinion, it deserves. In the present paper we present some algo- 
rithms which, it is hoped, may be of interest to other workers in 
the field. Neglecting the more obviously trivial methods, we 
shall confine our attention to those which involve significant 
applications of ideas familiar to mathematicians and physicists. 

The present time is particularly fitting for the preparation of an 
account of the subject, since recent advances both in pure mathe- 
matics and in theoretical physics have made available powerful 
tools whose very existence was unsuspected by earlier investi- 
gators. At the same time, some of the more elegant classical 
methods acquire new significance in the light of modern dis- 
coveries. Like many other branches of knowledge to which 
mathematical techniques have been applied in recent years, the 
Mathematical Theory of Big Game Hunting has a singularly 
happy unifying effect on the most diverse branches of the exact 

For the sake of simplicity of statement, we shall confine our 
attention to Lions (Felis led) whose habitat is the Sahara Desert. 
The methods which we shall enumerate will easily be seen to be 
applicable, with obvious formal modifications, to other carni- 
vores and to other portions of the globe. The paper is divided 
into three parts, which draw their material respectively from 
mathematics, theoretical physics, and experimental physics. 

The author desires to acknowledge his indebtness to the Trivial 
Club of St John's College, Cambridge, England; to the MIT 
chapter of the Society for Useless Research; to the F o P, of 
Princeton University; and to numerous individual contributors, 
known and unknown, conscious and unconscious. 


1. The Hilbert, or axiomatic, method. We place a locked cage at 
a given point of the desert. We then introduce the following 
logical system. 

Axiom 1. The class of lions in the Sahara Desert is non-void. 

Axiom 2. If there is a lion in the Sahara Desert, there is a lion in 
the cage. 

Rule of procedure. Ifp is a theorem, and 'p implies q' is a theorem, 
then q is a theorem. 

Theorem 1. There is a lion in the cage. 


A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting 

2. The method of inversive geometry. We place a spherical cage 
in the desert, enter it, and lock it. We perform an inversion with 
respect to the cage. The lion is then in the interior of the cage, 
and we are outside. 

3. The method of projective geometry. Without loss of generality, 
we may regard the Sahara Desert as a plane. Project the plane 
into a line, and then project the line into an interior point of the 
cage. The lion is projected into the same point. 

4. The Bolzano-Weierstrass method. Bisect the desert by a line 
running N-S. The lion is either in the E portion or in the W 
portion; let us suppose him to be in the W portion. Bisect 
this portion by a line running E-W. The lion is either in the 
N portion or in the S portion; let us suppose him to be in the 
N portion. We continue this process indefinitely, constructing a 
sufficiently strong fence about the chosen portion at each step. 
The diameter of the chosen portions approaches zero, so that 
the lion is ultimately surrounded by a fence of arbitrarily small 

5. The 'Mengentheoretisch' method. We observe that the desert 
is a separable space. It therefore contains an enumerable dense 
set of points, from which can be extracted a sequence having the 
lion as limit. We then approach the lion stealthily along this 
sequence, bearing with us suitable equipment. 

6. The Peano method. Construct, by standard methods, a con- 
tinuous curve passing through every point of the desert. It has 
been remarked [1] that it is possible to traverse such a curve in 
an arbitrarily short time. Armed with a spear, we traverse the 
curve in a time shorter than that in which a lion can move his 
own length. 

7. A topological method. We observe that a lion has at least the 
connectivity of the torus. We transport the desert into four- 
space. It is then possible [2] to carry out such a deformation that 
the lion can be returned to three-space in a knotted condition. 
He is then helpless. 

8. The Cauchy, or functiontheoretical, method. We consider an 
analytic lion-valued function f(z). Let £ be the cage. Consider 
the integral 


where C is the boundary of the desert; its value is /(£), i.e., 
a lion in the cage. [3] 

9. The Wiener Tauberian method. We procure a tame lion, 
Lo of class L(— 00,00), whose Fourier transform nowhere 
vanishes, and release it in the desert. Lo then converges to our 
cage. By Wiener's General Tauberian Theorem, [4] any other 
lion, L (say), will then converge to the same cage. Alternatively, 
we can approximate arbitrarily closely to L by translating Lo 
about the desert. [5] 


10. The Dirac method. We observe that wild lions are, ipso facto, 
not observable in the Sahara Desert. Consequently, if there are 
any lions in the Sahara, they are tame. The capture of a tame 
lion may be left as an exercise for the reader. 

11. The Schrddinger method. At any given moment there is a 
positive probability that there is a lion in the cage. Sit down and 

12. The method of nuclear physics. Place a tame lion in the cage, 
and apply a Majorana exchange operator [6] between it and a 
wild lion. 

As a variant, let us suppose, to fix ideas, that we require a 
male lion. We place a tame lioness in the cage, and apply a 
Heisenberg exchange operator [7] which exchanges the spins. 

13. A relativistic method. We distribute about the desert lion 
bait containing large portions of the Companion of Sirius. 
When enough bait has been taken, we project a beam of light 
across the desert. This will bend right round the lion, who will 
then become so dizzy that he can be approached with impunity. 


14. The thermodynamical method. We construct a semi-per- 
meable membrane, permeable to everything except lions, and 
sweep it across the desert. 

15. The atom-splitting method. We irradiate the desert with slow 
neutrons. The lion becomes radioactive, and a process of disin- 
tegration sets in. When the decay has proceeded sufficiently far, 
he will become incapable of showing fight. 

16. The magneto-optical method. We plant a large lenticular bed 
of catnip {Nepeta cataria), whose axis lies along the direction of 


A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting 

the horizontal component of the earth's magnetic field, and 
place a cage at one of its foci. We distribute over the desert large 
quantities of magnetized spinach (Spinacia oleracea), which, as is 
well known, has a high ferric content. The spinach is eaten by 
the herbivorous denizens of the desert, which are in turn eaten 
by lions. The lions are then oriented parallel to the earth's 
magnetic field, and the resulting beam of lions is focused by 
the catnip upon the cage. 

1 By Hilbert. See E W Hobson, The Theory of Functions of a Real Variable and 
the Theory of Fourier's Series (1927) vol I, pp 456-457. 

2 H Seifert and W Threlfall, Lehrbuch der Topologie (1934) pp 2-3. 

3 N.B. By Picard's Theorem (W F Osgood, Lehrbuch der Funktionentheorie, vol I 
(1928) p 178), we can catch every lion with at most one exception. 

4 N Wiener, The Fourier Integral and Certain of its Applications (1933) pp 73-74. 

5 N Wiener, loc cit, p 89. 

6 See, for example, H A Bethe and R F Bacher, Reviews 0 Modern Physics, 8 
(1936) pp 82-229; especially pp 106-107. 

7 Ibid. 

Fission and Superstition 

[A cautionary verse for parents or children appropriate to the Christmas 

This is the Tale of Frederick Wermyss 
Whose Parents weren 't on speaking terms. 
So when Fred wrote to Santa Claus 
It was in duplicate because 
One went to Dad and one to Mum — 
Both asked for some Plutonium. 
See the result: Father and Mother — 
Without Consulting one another — 
Purchased two Lumps of Largish Si%e, 
Intending them as a Surprise, 
Which met in Frederick 's Stocking and 
Laid level Ten square Miles of Land. 


Learn from this Dismal Tale of Fission 
Not to mix Science with Superstition. 


New Statesman 
and Nation 
(London) Jan 14, 


The uses of fallacy 


published in 
New Zealand 
Magazine 7, 15 
(1970). Revised 
by the author. 

In the last hundred years or so, mathematics has undergone a 
tremendous growth in size and complexity and subdety. This 
growth has given rise to a demand for more flexible methods of 
proving theorems than the laborious, difficult, pedantic, 'rigorous' 
methods previously in favour. This demand has been met by what 
is now a well-developed branch of mathematics known as 
Generalized Logic. I don't want to develop the theory of Genera- 
lized Logic in detail, but I must introduce some necessary terms. 
In Classical Logic, a Theorem consists of a True Statement for 
which there exists a Classical Proof. In Generalized Logic, we 
relax both of these restrictions: a Generalized Theorem consists 
of a Statement for which there exists a Generalized Proof. I think 
that the meaning of these terms should be sufficiendy clear with- 
out the need for elaborate definitions. 

The applications of Generalized Proofs will be obvious. Pro- 
fessional authors of text-books use them freely, especially when 
proving mathematical results in Physics texts. Teachers and lec- 
turers find that the use of Generalized Proofs enables them to 
make complex ideas readily accessible to students at an elemen- 
tary level (without the necessity for the tutor to understand them 
himself). Research workers in a hurry to claim priority for a new 
result, or who lack the time and inclination to be pedantic, find 
Generalized Proofs useful in writing papers. In this application, 
Generalized Proofs have the further advantage that the result is 
not required to be true, thus eliminating a tiresome (and now 
superfluous) restriction on the growth of mathematics. 

I want now to consider some of the proof techniques which 
Generalized Logic has made available. I will be concerned mosdy 
with the ways in which these methods can be applied in lecture 
courses— they require only trivial modifications to be used in text 
books and research papers. 

The reductio methods are particularly worthy of note. There are, 
as everyone knows, two reductio methods available: reductio ad 
nauseam and reductio ad erratum. Both methods begin in the same 
way: the mathematician denies the result he is trying to prove, 
and writes down all the consequences of this denial that he can 
think of. The methods are most effective if these consequences are 
written down at random, preferably in odd vacant corners of the 

Although the methods begin in the same way, their aims are 
completely different. In reductio ad nauseam the lecturer's aim is to 
get everyone in the class asleep and not taking notes. (The latter 


The uses of fallacy 

is a much stronger condition.) The lecturer then has only to clean 
the blackboard and announce, 'Thus we arrive at a contradiction, 
and the result is established'. There is no need to shout this— it is 
the signal for which everyone's subconscious has been waiting. 
The entire class will awaken, stretch, and decide to get the last 
part of the proof from someone else. If everyone had stopped 
taking notes, therefore, there is no 'someone else', and the result 
is established. 

In reductio ad erratum the aim is more subtle. If the working is 
complicated and poindess enough, an error is bound to occur. The 
first few such mistakes may well be picked up by an attentive 
class, but sooner or later one will get through. For a while, this 
error will lie dormant, buried deep in the working, but eventually 
it will come to the surface and announce its presence by con- 
tradicting something which has gone before. The theorem is then 

It should be noted that in reductio ad erratum the lecturer need 
not be aware of this random error or of the use he has made of it. 
The best practitioners of this method can produce deep and subtle 
errors within two or three lines and surface them within minutes, 
all by an instinctive process of which they are never aware. The 
subconscious artistry displayed by a really virtuoso master to a 
connoisseur who knows what to look for can be breathtaking. 

There is a whole class of methods which can be applied when a 
lecturer can get from his premisses P to a statement A, and from 
another statement B to the desired conclusion C, but he cannot 
bridge the gap from A to B. A number of techniques are available 
to the aggressive lecturer in this emergency. He can write down 
A, and without any hesitation put 'therefore B\ If the theorem is 
dull enough, it is unlikely that anyone will question the 'there- 
fore'. This is the method of Proof by Omission, and is remarkably 
easy to get away with (sorry, 'remarkably easy to apply with 

Alternatively, there is the Proof by Misdirection, where some 
statement that looks rather like l A, therefore 2?' is proved. A good 
bet is to prove the converse l B, therefore A': this will always 
satisfy a first-year class. The Proof by Misdirection has a count- 
ably infinite analogue, if the lecturer is not pressed for time, in the 
method of Proof by Convergent Irrelevancies. 

Proof by Definition can sometimes be used: the lecturer defines 
a set S of whatever entities he is considering for which B is true, 
and announces that in future he will be concerned only with 


members of S. Even an Honours class will probably take this at 
face value, without enquiring whether the set S might not be 

Proof by Assertion is unanswerable. If some vague waffle about 
why B is true does not satisfy the class, the lecturer simply says, 
'This point should be intuitively obvious. I've explained it as 
clearly as I can. If you still cannot see it, you will just have to 
think very carefully about it yourselves, and then you will see how 
trivial and obvious it is.' 

The hallmark of a Proof by Admission of Ignorance is the state- 
ment, 'None of the text-books makes this point clear. The result 
is certainly true, but I don't know why. We shall just have to 
accept it as it stands.' This otherwise satisfactory method has the 
potential disadvantage that somebody in the class may know why 
the result is true (or, worse, know why it is false) and be prepared 
to say so. 

A Proof by Non- Existent Reference will silence all but the most 
determined troublemaker. 'You will find a proof of this given in 
Copson on page 445', which is in the middle of the index. An 
important variant of this technique can be used by lecturers in 
pairs. Dr Jones assumes a result which Professor Smith will be 
proving later in the year— but Professor Smith, finding himself 
short of time, omits that theorem, since the class has already done 
it with Dr Jones. . . . 

Proof by Physical Reasoning provides uniqueness theorems for 
many difficult systems of differential equations, but it has other 
important applications besides. The cosine formula for a triangle, 
for example, can be obtained by considering the equilibrium of a 
mechanical system. (Physicists then reverse the procedure, 
obtaining the conditions for equilibrium of the system from the 
cosine rule rather than from experiment.) 

The ultimate and irrefutable standby, of course, is the self- 
explanatory technique of Proof by Assignment. In a text-book, this 
can be recognized by the typical expressions 'It can readily be 
shown that . . .' or 'We leave as a trivial exercise for the reader 
the proof that . . .'. (The words 'readily' and 'trivial' are an 
essential part of the technique.) 

An obvious and fruitful ploy when confronted with the difficult 
problem of showing that B follows from A is the Delayed Lemma. 
'We assert as a lemma, the proof of which we postpone. . . '. This 
is by no means idle procrastination : there are two possible 
denouements. In the first place, the lemma may actually be proved 

3 1 

The uses of fallacy 

later on, using the original theorem in the argument. This Proof 
by Circular Cross-Reference has an obvious inductive generali- 
zation to chains of three or more theorems, and some very elegant 
results arise when this chain of interdependent theorems becomes 

The other possible fate of a Delayed Lemma is the Proof by 
Infinite Neglect, in which the lecture course terminates before 
the lemma has been proved. The lemma, and the theorem of which 
it is a part, will naturally be assumed without comment in future 

A very subtle method of proving a theorem is the method of 
Proof by Osmosis. Here the theorem is never stated, and no hint 
of its proof is given, but by the end of the course it is tacidy 
assumed to be known. The theorem floats about in the air during 
the entire course and the mechanism by which the class absorbs it 
is the well-known biological phenomenon of osmosis. 

A method of proof which is regrettably little used in under- 
graduate mathematics is the Proof by Aesthetics ('This result is 
too beautiful to be false'). Physicists will be aware that Dirac uses 
this method to establish the validity of several of his theories, the 
evidence for which is otherwise fairly slender. His remark 'It is 
more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have 
them fit experimental] has achieved a certain fame. 

I want to discuss finally the Proof by Oral Tradition. This 
method gives rise to the celebrated Folk Theorems, of which 
Fermat's Last Theorem is an imperfect example. The classical 
type exists only as a footnote in a text-book, to the effect that it 
can be proved (see unpublished lecture notes of the late Professor 
Green) that. . . . Reference to the late Professor Green's lecture 
notes reveals that he had never actually seen the proof, but had 
been assured of its validity in a personal communication, since 
destroyed, from the great Sir Ernest White. If one could still 
track it back from here, one would find that Sir Ernest heard of it 
over coffee one morning from one of his research students, who 
had seen a proof of the result, in Swedish, in the first issue of a 
mathematical magazine which never produced a second issue 
and is not available in the libraries. And so on. Not very sur- 
prisingly, it is common for the contents of a Folk Theorem to 
change dramatically as its history is investigated. 

I have made no mention of Special Methods such as division by 
zero, taking wrong square roots, manipulating divergent series, 
and so forth. These methods, while very powerful, are adequately 

3 2 

described in the standard literature. Nor have I discussed the 
little-known Fundamental Theorem of All Mathematics, which 
states that every number is zero (and whose proof will give the 
interested reader many hours of enjoyment, and excellent practice 
in the use of the methods outlined above). However, it will have 
become apparent what riches there are in the study of Generalized 
Logic, and I appeal to Mathematics Departments to institute 
formal courses in this discipline. This should be done preferably at 
undergraduate level, so that those who go teaching with only a 
Bachelor's degree should be familiar with the subject. It is certain 
that in the future nobody will be able to claim a mathematical 
education without a firm grounding in at least the practical appli- 
cations of Generalized Logic. 

I P A M Dirac, 'The Evolution of the Physicist's Picture of Nature', Scientific 
American, May 1963, p 47 

Basic science 

Basic science 

has to do with isotopes and ions 
sols and gels 

inorganic and organic smells 
and variously differentiated cells. 
In this scientific melange 
Plus c'est la meme chose, plus pa change. 
What people write 

Was out of date on the previous night. 
No sooner do you see data neatly analysed 
Than BOOM comes another research 
and the facts are changed. 

To call this 'basic ' is exaggeration. 
Science is too ephemeral, too full of imitation. 
A foundation or basis 
should have homeostasis. 
That which is basic is Art 
of which Science is a metaplastic part. 

From Journal of 
Results 13, 5 


On the nature of mathematical proofs 


Condensed from Bertrand Russell has defined mathematics as the science in which 
Opus, May 1961. we never ] cnow -^hzX we are talking about or whether what we 
are saying is true. Mathematics has been shown to apply widely 
in many other scientific fields. Hence most other scientists do not 
know what they are talking about or whether what they are 
saying is true. Thus providing a rigorous basis for philosophical 
insights is one of the main functions of mathematical proofs. 

To illustrate the various methods of proof we give an example 
of a logical system. 


Lemma 1. All horses are the same colour (by induction). 

Proof. It is obvious that one horse is the same colour. Let us 
assume the proposition P(k) that k horses are the same colour 
and use this to imply that k + 1 horses are the same colour. 
Given the set of k + 1 horses, we remove one horse; then the 
remaining k horses are the same colour, by hypothesis. We 
remove another horse and replace the first; the k horses, by 
hypothesis, are again the same colour. We repeat this until by 
exhaustion the k + 1 sets of k horses have each been shown to 
be the same colour. It follows then that since every horse is the 
same colour as every other horse, P(k) entails P(k + 1). But 
since we have shown P(l) to be true, P is true for all succeeding 
values of k, that is, all horses are the same colour. 

Theorem 1. Every horse has an infinite number of legs. (Proof by 

Proof. Horses have an even number of legs. Behind they have 
two legs and in front they have fore legs. This makes six legs, 
which is certainly an odd number of legs for a horse. But the 
only number that is both odd and even is infinity. Therefore 
horses have an infinite number of legs. Now to show that this is 
general, suppose that somewhere there is a horse with a finite 


number of legs. But that is a horse of another colour, and by the 
lemma that does not exist. 

Corollary 1. Everything is the same colour. 

Proof. The proof of lemma 1 does not depend at all on the nature 
of the object under consideration. The predicate of the ante- 
cedent of the universally-quantified conditional 'For all x, if x is 
a horse, then x is the same colour,' namely 'is a horse' may be 
generalized to 'is anything' without affecting the validity of the 
proof; hence, 'for all x, if x is anything, x is the same colour.' 

Corollary 2. Everything is white. 

Proof. If a sentential formula in x is logically true, then any 
particular substitution instance of it is a true sentence. In 
particular then: 'for all x, if x is an elephant, then x is the same 
colour' is true. Now it is manifestly axiomatic that white ele- 
phants exist (for proof by blatant assertion consult Mark Twain 
'The Stolen White Elephant'). Therefore all elephants are white. 
By corollary 1 everything is white. 

Theorem 2. Alexander the Great did not exist and he had an 
infinite number of limbs. 

Proof. We prove this theorem in two parts. First we note the 
obvious fact that historians always tell the truth (for historians 
always take a stand, and therefore they cannot lie). Hence we 
have the historically true sentence, 'If Alexander the Great 
existed, then he rode a black horse Bucephalus.' But we know 
by corollary 2 everything is white; hence Alexander could not 
have ridden a black horse. Since the consequent of the condi- 
tional is false, in order for the whole statement to be true the 
antecedent must be false. Hence Alexander the Great did not 

We have also the historically true statement that Alexander 
was warned by an oracle that he would meet death if he crossed 
a certain river. He had two legs; and 'fore-warned is four- 
armed.' This gives him six limbs, an even number, which is 
certainly an odd number of limbs for a man. Now the only 
number which is even and odd is infinity ; hence Alexander had 
an infinite number of limbs. We have thus proved that Alexander 
the Great did not exist and that he had an infinite number of 


On the nature of mathematical proofs 

It is not to be thought that there are not other types of proofs, 
which in print shops are recorded on proof sheets. There is the 
bullet proof and the proof of the pudding. Finally there is 200 
proof, a most potent spirit among mathematicians and people 

Arrogance in physics 


Leo Szilard stayed several years with the phage group between 
two periods of intense political activity. Before revealing his 
interest in the phage, Szilard had visited Luria's laboratory at the 
University of Indiana. 'Doctor Szilard, I don't know how much to 
explain,' said Luria, embarrassed by the presence of the great 
nuclear physicist. 'I don't know what to assume . . .' 'You may 
assume,' Szilard replied prompdy, 'infinite ignorance and un- 
limited intelligence.' 

As you may know, the Institutes for Basic Research at the 
University of Chicago were created to continue the wartime colla- 
boration between disciplines that had been traditionally depart- 
mentalized. Enrico was a member of the Institute for Nuclear 
Studies, and there was also an Institute for radiobiology. The 
collaboration with the biologists, Enrico once said, did not work. 
The trouble was that the biologists wouldn't listen to 'us'. 'Us' 
was, of course the physicists, and Enrico went on to explain to 
me that biology was in bad shape. Biologists were collecting a 
large number of facts, but went at it unsystematically, without a 
scheme or any structure to their research. Physicists could teach 
biologists to use the methods of physics; biologists could use the 
physicists' experience, and then there would be real achieve- 
ments in biology. They wouldn't listen, so, too bad for them. 
(There was an implication of magnanimity on the part of the 
physicists in their willingness to pass on their experience free of 
any charges.) 

We never took up the subject again, but the essence of this 
conversation stayed with me. I was puzzled by Enrico's convic- 
tion that physicists knew so much better. . . . 


What do physicists do? 

From Physicists 
continue to laugh 
MIR Publishing 
House, Moscow 
1968. Translated 
from the Russian 
by Mrs Lorraine 
T Kapitanoff. 

In keeping with the spirit of the times the Editors of the wall news- 
paper 'Impulse' of the Physical Institute of the Academy of 
Science of the USSR have formed a Department of Sociological 
Investigations. Members of this department conducted a survey 
of the Moscow populace on the theme 'What do Physicists do ?' 

Population Total Don't 

Group Questioned Answered Know 


Writer-Realists 1 1 

Writer-Visionaries 58 58 

First year college 65 65 


Graduate students 30 10 

Young scientific 19 19 

Staff members- 

Young scientific 19 19 

Staff members- 

Older scientific 
Staff members 

Members of the 
personnel depart- 

Members of the 6 6 

guard force 

Representatives of 18 18 

the Ministry of 


4 They argue until hoarse in 
smoke filled rooms. It is not 
known why they set up un- 
intelligible dangerous experi- 
ments using huge apparatus. 

0 They work on enormous 
electronic machines called 
electronic brains. They work 
primarily in the cosmos. 

0 They speculate a lot. They 
make discoveries no less than 
once a month. 

20 They solder circuits. They 
ask the older ones to find the 
leak. They write articles. 

0 They run to the equipment 
department. They scrub 
rotary vacuum pumps. They 
flap their ears at seminars. 

0 They converse in corridors 
helping to make great dis- 
coveries. They write formu- 
lae, mostly incorrect. 

1 They attend meetings. They 
help younger scientific staff 
members to find the leak. 

o Experimenters must arrive at 
8.25 so that at 8.30 they can 
sit silently next to apparatus 
which is running. Theoreti- 
cians do not work at all. 

o They walk back and forth. 
They present passes upside 

o They spend money to no 


Physics terms made easy 

Mostly anony- 
mous; most of the 
optical terms 
taken from a 
'Glossary of 
Optical Termin- 
ology' ysx a 
volume presented 
to Dr Rudolf 
Kingslake on his 
retirement from 
the Eastman 
Kodak Company. 

Calculus of residues 



Conic section 

Exit pupil 

Grand canonical 



Ground state 
Harmonic function 
Hermitian operator 


Marginal ray 

Normal solution 




Poynting vector 



Spin operator 
Statistical correlation 

Ultraviolet catastrophe 


How to clean up a bathtub ring 
A feline eye 

Italian: multi-toothed device for re- 
arranging one's hair 
A student who drives to school 
Funny paper 

An officer who enquires into the 

manner of violent death 

The opposite of 'Stop sign' 

To use profane language 

A retiring student 

Past participle of the verb 'to flex' 

To review for examinations 

Ecumenical council 
Principal item of a cow's diet 
Coffee, before brewing 

Recluse surgeon 
Noisy wiretap 

Animal like rhinoceros but with no horn 
on nose 

Singular of lens, specifically a one- 
surface optical element 
A ray of doubtful origin 
A bug like a centimetre but with more 

The wrong answer 
Headquarters or place of business 
Two Ph D's 
A dead parrot 

A redundant term; all vectors point 

A female ghost 

A long, pointed weapon 

Owner of a Ferris wheel 

36-22-35 _ 


Bad sunburn 

Point of a mathematical figure opposite 
the base 

Will you please repeat that remark ? 


Humphry Davy's first experiments 

[Among the key experiments which helped to establish that heat was a 
mode of motion were Humphry Davy's ice-rubbing experiments. He was 
aged 20 when the paper was published in 1J9S>, working as superinten- 
dent of a Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, whose function was to establish 
the beneficial effects of inhaling gases. {The account of Experiment III is 
defective and has been slightly edited)] 


I procured two parallelopipedons of ice, of the temperature of 
29°, six inches long, two wide, and two-thirds of an inch thick: 
they were fastened by wires to two bars of iron. By a peculiar 
mechanism, their surfaces were placed in contact, and kept in a 
continued and violent friction for some minutes. They were almost 
entirely converted into water, which water was collected, and its 
temperature ascertained to be 35 0 , after remaining in an atmos- 
phere of a lower temperature for some minutes. The fusion took 
place only at the plane of contact of the two pieces of ice, and no 
bodies were in friction but ice. From this experiment it is evident 
that ice by friction is converted into water, and according to the 
supposition its capacity is diminished ; but it is a well-known fact, 
that the capacity of water for heat is much greater than that of ice ; 
and ice must have an absolute quantity of heat added to it, before 
it can be converted into water. Friction consequently does not 
diminish the capacities of bodies for heat. 

From this experiment it is likewise evident, that the increase of 
temperature consequent on friction cannot arise from the decom- 
position of the oxygen gas in contact, for ice has no attraction for 
oxygen. . . . 


I procured a piece of clock-work so constructed as to be set to 
work in the exhausted receiver; one of the external wheels of this 
machine came in contact with a thin metallic plate. (The metal of 
the machine and plate weighed near half a pound; on the plate 
was placed eighteen grains of wax.) A considerable degree of 
sensible heat was produced by friction between the wheel and 
plate when the machine worked uninsulated from bodies capable 
of communicating heat. I next procured a small piece of ice; 
round the superior edge of this a small canal was made and filled 
with water. The machine was placed on the ice, but not in con- 
tact with the water. Thus disposed, the whole was placed under 
the receiver, (which had been previously filled with carbonic 

From Collected 
Works of 
Humphry Davy 
ed. John Davy 


Humphry Davy's first experiments 

acid), a quantity of potash (ie caustic vegetable alkali) being at 
the same time introduced. 

The receiver was now exhausted. From the exhaustion, and 
from the attraction of the carbonic acid gas by the potash, a 
vacuum nearly perfect was, I believe, made. 

The machine was now set to work. The wax rapidly melting, 
proved the increase of temperature. 

Caloric then was collected by friction; which caloric, on the 
supposition, was communicated by the bodies in contact with the 
machine. In this experiment, ice was the only body in contact 
with the machine. Had this ice given out caloric, the water on the 
top of it must have been frozen. The water on the top of it was not 
frozen, consequently the ice did not give out caloric. The caloric 
could not come from the bodies in contact with the ice; for it 
must have passed through the ice to penetrate the machine, and 
an addition of caloric to the ice would have converted it into 
water. ... It has then been experimentally demonstrated that 
caloric, or the matter of heat, does not exist. 

Heat, then, or that power which prevents the actual contact of 
the corpuscles of bodies, and which is the cause of our peculiar 
sensations of heat and cold, may be defined as a peculiar motion, 
probably a vibration, of the corpuscles of bodies, tending to 
separate them. It may with propriety be called the repulsive 

[In 1935, Andrade turned a critical eye on these experiments which, as he 
remarked, have never been repeated. He was suspicious of them because 'if 
the ice is covered with a film of water, the friction is so small that scarcely 
any work is done, while if it really is dry it is liable to stick. . . . 
Again, the amount of work required to melt 2 gm of ice is very large ...'.] 

Ftom Nature 135 j n the first of these experiments described in less than three 
359(i935) hundred words, without any detail, Davy says that he fastened 

two pieces of ice by wires to two iron bars and that 'by a peculiar 
mechanism' the ice was kept in violent friction for some minutes. 
The pieces of ice 'were almost entirely converted into water' 
which, strangely enough, was found to be at 3 5 0 'after remaining 
in an atmosphere at a lower temperature for some minutes', or, 
in other words, the friction of ice can raise water many degrees 
above the melting point ! Even supposing that the stroke of the 
'engine' was 5 cm, and that it executed 100 strokes a minute, 
and that the coefficient of friction was 0-5, this would mean if for 
'some minutes' we read 'ten minutes', that the force pressing the 


pieces of ice together would have to be equivalent to an additional 
pressure of about 4 atmospheres. The whole experiment is fan- 
tastic. This is said in no disrespect to Davy: how could one expect 
an untrained boy in 1799 to carry out an experiment which even 
today would tax an experienced physicist to say the least? No 
doubt the whole effect observed by Davy was due to conduction. 

The other experiment, the one in a vacuum, was not concerned 
with ice at all, but with the melting of wax. The wax was ap- 
parently attached to a metal plate, against which rubbed a 
clockwork-driven wheel. The clockwork stood on a piece of ice 
in which was cut a channel containing water, and the whole was 
under an exhausted bell-jar. The argument was that if the heat 
required to melt the wax had passed from the ice to the clockwork, 
the water would have frozen. As, however, the heat required to 
produce the rise of temperature observed in the clockwork 
amounted to but 12 calories, only 0*15 cc of water would have 
frozen in any event, which actually could not be observed by eye 
in a rough channel cut in a piece of ice. The experiment proves 
nothing at all. 

I may be held to have spent too much time on a point which 
some may say is of historical interest only. I hold, however, that 
it is very inadvisable that students should be taught to attach a 
fundamental importance, not to experiments crudely carried out, 
which were afterwards improved, but to experiments of which 
one probably cannot be carried out at all, while the other is so 
ill-designed as to prove nothing. I am no denigrator; I do not 
think that it detracts from the greatness of Davy to point out that 
his first experiments, carried out when he was a country lad, were 
uncritical and lacked all quantitative basis. It is time, however, 
that they ceased to be ranked with such convincing demonstra- 
tions as those of Rumford, and disappeared from the textbooks. 
Or, if they are quoted, do let us have instructions as to how to 
melt two pieces of ice by rubbing them together in a vacuum. 

[Davy's paper had a real and lasting effect on the development of science. 
But do not, Gentle Young Reader, publish as hastily as Davy unless you 
are sure that you are as great a genius as he.] 

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am 
doing. Werner von Braun 

Maxwell's aether 

From Philosophical [Nowadays, we present electromagnetic theory in an abstract way, but this 

21 ' W0S n0t ^ e m °^ °f ^ i nnovators - Maxwell began by making a model 
of the aether, composed of vortices of sub-molecular si^e, all rotating in the 
same direction so as to produce the circulation of the magnetic field. In the 
spirit of the age he took the model very seriously] 

I have found great difficulty in conceiving of the existence of 
vortices in a medium, side by side, revolving in the same direction 
about parallel axes. The contiguous portions of consecutive vor- 
tices must be moving in opposite directions; and it is difficult to 
understand how the motion of one part of the medium can coexist 
with, and even produce, an opposite motion of a part in contact 
with it. 

The only conception which has at all aided me in conceiving of 
this kind of motion is that of the vortices being separated by a 
layer of particles, revolving each on its own axis in the opposite 
direction to that of the vortices, so that the contiguous surfaces 
of the particles and of the vortices have the same motion. 

In mechanism, when two wheels are intended to revolve in 
the same direction, a wheel is placed between them so as to be in 
gear with both, and this wheel is called an 'idle wheel'. The hypo- 
thesis about the vortices which I have to suggest is that a layer of 
particles, acting as idle wheels, is interposed between each vortex 
and the next, so that each vortex has a tendency to make the 
neighbouring vortices revolve in the same direction with itself. 


[The idle wheels were particles of electricity. He deduced the electro- 
magnetic equations on the basis of this picture?^ 

It serves to bring out the actual mechanical connexions between 
the known electro-magnetic phenomena; so that I venture to say 
that any one who understands the provisional and temporary 
character of this hypothesis, will find himself rather helped than 
hindered by it in his search after the true interpretation of the 

Boltzmann on style in physics 

Just as a musician recognizes Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert 
from the first few bars, so does a mathematician recognize his 
Cauchy, Gauss, Jacobi or Helmholtz from the first few pages. 
Perfect elegance of expression belongs to the French, the greatest 
dramatic vigour to the English, above all to Maxwell. Who does 
not know his dynamical theory of gases ? First, majestically, the 
Distribution of Velocities develops, then from one side the Equa- 
tions of Motion in a Central Field; ever higher sweeps the chaos of 
formulae; suddenly are heard the four words: 'Put n = 5'. The 
evil spirit f^(the relative velocity of two molecules) vanishes and 
the dominating figure in the bass is suddenly silent; that which had 
seemed insuperable being overcome as if by a magic stroke. There 
is no time to say why this or why that substitution was made ; he 
who cannot sense this should lay the book aside, for Maxwell is 
no writer of programme music obliged to set the explanation over 
the score. Result after result is given by the pliant formulae till, as 
unexpected climax, comes the Heat Equilibrium of a heavy gas ; 
the curtain then drops. 

One of R W Wood's associates told me of the time he was sent a 
collaborator from Rutherford's laboratory. The visitor was found 
to be an ideal colleague and Wood wanted to keep him at Johns 
Hopkins, but Rutherford decreed differently. The man left for 
home and Wood sighed, 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh 


From Ludwig 



to Kirchhoff's 




An Experiment to prove, that Water, 
when agitated by Fire, is infinitely 
more elastic than Air in the same 
Circumstances; by the late Rev d John 
Clayton, Dean o/Kildare in Ireland 

Condensed from [Scientific writing in the eighteenth century was uninhibited and direct, a 
transactions of the contrast 10 ^ dullness of much that fills today's journals. This article is a 
Royal Society 41 typical example of early writing. The author describes how he found that 
162-66 (1739). the vapour pressure (the 'elasticity') of water increases very much more 
rapidly than the pressure of air as the temperature is raised.] 

Sir Thomas Proby having heard of a new Digester, which I con- 
trived, had a Desire to see it, and some Experiments made therein. 
I had a small one, which I designed only for an inward Cylinder; 
this I could easily put in my Pocket: Wherefore, going to pay 
him a Visit at Elton in Huntingdonshire, I took it along with me ; 
and having softened a Bone therein in a very short Space, he was 
desirous to know the shortest Time it was possible to soften a 
Bone in: I told him, I thought I could soften the Marrow-bone of 
an Ox in a very few Minutes, but that the Vessel was very weak, 
and I feared would not endure the Pressure of so violent a Heat; 
yet seeming desirous to have the Experiment tried, I said I was 
ready to venture my Vessel: Then having fixed all things right, 
and included about a Pint of "Water, and I believe, about 2 oz of 
a Marrow-bone, we placed the Vessel horizontally betwixt the 
Bars of the iron Grate into the Fire about halfway; and in three 
Minutes time I found it raised to a great Heat; whereupon I had 
a mind to have it taken out of the Fire, lest it should have burst; 
telling Sir Thomas of the Danger that I apprehended. Scarce had I 
done speaking, and Sir Thomas thereupon moved his Chair to 
avoid Danger; but seeing the Heat becoming more raging, I 
stepped to the Side-table for the Iron wherewith I managed the 
Digester, in order to take it out of the Fire, when, on a sudden, it 
burst as if a Musquet had gone off. A Maid that was gone a milking, 
heard it at a considerable Distance; the Servants said it shook the 
House. The Bottom of the Vessel, that was in the Fire, gave way; 
the Blast of the expanded Water blew all the Coals out of the 
Fire all over the Room. All the Vessel together flew in a direct 
Line cross the Room, and hitting the Leaf on a Table made of an 
inch Oak plank, broke it all in Pieces, and rebounded half way 
of the Room back again. What surprised me in this Event was, 
that the Noise it made at its bursting was by no means like the 
successive evaporating of an /Eolipile, but like the firing off of 
Gunpowder. Nor could I perceive anywhere in the Room the 
least Sign of Water, though I looked carefully for it, and, as I 


said before, I had put a Pint into the Digester, save only that the 
Fire was quite extinguished, and every Coal belonging to it was 
black in an Instant. 

But to confirm the Elasticity of Water, or to shew at least, that 
there is a much stronger elastic Force in Water and Air, when 
jointly included in a Vessel, than when Air alone is inclosed 
therein, I made the following Experiment: I took two 6 oz Phials, 
into the one I put about 5 oz of Water, or better, and so corked 
it as well as I possibly could; the other I corked in the same 
Manner, without putting any thing into it. I inclosed them both 
in my new Digester, Four-fifths being filled with Water; when the 
Heat was raised to about Five-seconds, I heard a considerable 
Explosion, and a jingling of Glass within the Vessel, and shortly 
after another Explosion, but not so loud as the former; whence I 
concluded, that both the Phials were broken. I then let the 
Digester cool leisurely, and the next Day I opened it; both the 
Corks were swimming on the Top of the Water, but only one of 
the Phials was broken, vi^. that one into which I had not put any 
Water. At first, indeed, I concluded, that the Pressure or Dilatation 
of the Air in the empty Phial being stronger than the ambient 
Pressure, forced forth the Cork, whereupon the Water, rushing 
in the Violence, might break the Phial; and therefore that this 
was the Cause also of the Loudness of the Explosion; whereas 
the other being mostly filled with Water, there being but a small 
Quantity of Air therein, just enough to force out the Cork, the 
Phial was not broken, but was preserved by the Force of the 
Water inclosed therein. But I have had Reason since to change 
my Opinion; for having had very strong Phials made on Purpose 
to make some peculiar Experiments therewith, I took one of them, 
and having filled it about a quarter full with Water, and corked it 
very well, I set it in a square iron Frame, with a Screw to screw 
down the Cork, and keep it from flying forth. I then put it into a 
Digester, Four-fifths filled with Water; which being heated to a 
due Height, when I opened it, I found the Cork forced into the 
Phial, though the Cork was so very large, that it amazed several 
who saw it, to conceive how it was possible for so large a Cork 
to be forced into the Bottle. Hence it manifesdy appears, that the 
Pressure in the Digester, wherein was proportionately more 
Water, and less Air, was stronger than the Pressure within the 
Phial, wherein was proportionately more Air, and less Water. 
Then I reasoned thus also of the two former Phials: That the 
Air in the Phial, wherein was no Water included, making not 


An Experiment to prove, that Water, when agitated by Fire, is 
infinitely more elastic than Air in the same Circumstances 

a proportionate Resistance to the ambient Pressure in the Digester, 
wherein was a considerable Quantity of Water, the Cork was 
forced inward with such Violence, that it, together with the Water, 
dashed the Phial in pieces; but that in the other Phial, wherein 
there were Five-sixths of Water, the inward Pressure in the Phial 
being greater than the ambient Pressure in the Digester, wherein 
were but Four-fifths of Water, the Cork was thereby forced out- 
ward; and that the small Difference between the proportionate 
Quantity of Water and Air in the Phial and in the Digester, being 
only a Four-fifth to Five-sixths, was the Reason not only why the 
Botde was not broken, but also of the Faintness of the Explosion. 

H A Rowland 


I have been told of an incident in the life of H A Rowland which 
I cannot certify but which is consistent with other reports of his 
personality. It seems he was called on to testify as a science 
expert in some kind of court case. In exploring his competence an 
attorney asked him who was the foremost American physicist. 
Unhesitatingly, Rowland answered, 'I am.' Later a friend re- 
proached him gendy for his immodesty. Rowland's response was, 
'Well, you have to remember I was under oath.' 

From The Space 
Child's Mother 
Goose, verse by 
illustration by- 
Marion Parry 
(New York: 

Three jolly sailors from Blaydon-on-Tyne 
They went to sea in a bottle by Klein. 
Since the sea was entirely inside the hull 
The scenery seen was exceedingly dull. 

Simon and 
Schuster) 1958. 


Dial Barometers, 8-14 inch, plain carved in solid oak, mahogany, 
rosewood or walnut frames with double basil ring and polished-edge 
plate glass, or richly carved in oak, mahogany or walnut wood with 
solid frames of Gothic, Medieval, Elizabethan, Egyptian, Chippen- 
dale or other designs. Price £j-js to £25. Suitable for Club Houses, 
Mansions, etc. 

(From Negretd and Zambrds Encyclopaedic Illustrated and Descriptive 
Reference Catalogue of Optical, Mathematical, Physical, Photographic 
and Standard Meteorological Instruments, manufactured and sold by 

A Victorian solution to the meteorologist's problem of reading the air temperature 
at hourly intervals. Each mercury-in-glass thermometer T in its housing is turned 
bulb downwards and held in that position by a spring-loaded stop or detent. At a 
certain moment the spring is released by its electromagnet M, the thermometer 
falls upside down, the mercury thread breaks and the temperature reading is pre- 
served. Of the twelve thermometers, the six on the left have fallen, the six on the 
right have not yet been actuated. Presumably the attendant will come in another 
six hours to read the whole row and record the results. 

(From Negretti and Zambrds Encyclopaedic Illustrated and Descriptive Reference 
Catalogue of Optical, Mathematical, Physical, Photographic and Standard Meteoro- 
logical Instruments, manufactured and sold by them?) 



From A General 
History of the 
Sciences: Science 
in the Nineteenth 
Century ed Rene 
Taton, translation 
by A J Pomerans 
(London: Thames 
and Hudson 1966) 
pp 477-8. 

It is not easy today to realize the fierceness with which this war 
between science and religion, centred about evolution, was carried 
on in the late 19th century, but the bitterness of the controversy 
may be illustrated by the attempt made by Sir Richard Owen and 
Bishop Wilberforce to reduce Darwin's theory to ridicule at the 
British Association meeting at Oxford, in June i860. At the 
Thursday (28th June) meeting Sir Richard Owen made the rash 
statement that a gorilla's 'brain is more different from a man's 
brain than it is from the brain of the lowest apes,' and Huxley at 
once 'flady and unequivocally' contradicted the statement. By the 
Saturday, when Wilberforce was booked to speak, feelings were 
running high. Orthodox churchmen everywhere felt that the 
Christian religion, whose doctrines were based on a literal inter- 
pretation of the Bible, was being threatened by the arrogance of 
science, and Wilberforce openly told his friends that he now 
intended 'to smash Darwin'. The zealous bishop had not himself 
troubled to read Darwin's Origin of Species, but he had been 
coached in his part by Sir Richard Owen. 

He spoke eloquently to a packed meeting, there being so many 
people present that even the window-sills were occupied. Carried 
away by his enthusiasm, he turned at one point to Huxley and, 
with a fine show of scorn, asked him, 'Is it on your grandfather's 
or your grandmother's side that the ape ancestry comes in ?' His 
final conclusion that 'Darwin's theory is contrary to the revelations 
of God in the Scriptures' was greeted with wild cheering, and 
there the meeting would have ended had not many of the students 
clamoured for a reply from Huxley. At length Huxley rose and 
made his celebrated retort: 'I asserted, and I repeat, that a man 
has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. 
If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling 
it would be a man of restless and versatile intellect who, not 
content with success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into 
scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only 
to obscure them by aimless rhetoric and distract the attention of 
his hearers from the point at issue by digressions and appeals to 
religious prejudice.' 

Thus, the bishop was put in his place, and though many people 
present were shocked and Lady Brewster, among other notable 
women, thought it proper to faint, the final consensus of opinion 
was overwhelmingly on the side of science and the great con- 
ception of evolution. 


Getting bubble chambers accepted by the 
world of professional physicists 


[Awarded the i960 Nobel Pri\e for Physics for his invention of the 
bubble chamber.] 

My first talk on the subject was scheduled by the secretary of the 
American Physical Society, Karl Darrow, in the Saturday after- 
noon 'crackpot session' of the American Physical Society. My 
first paper on this subject was returned as unaccepted (Phys. Rev. 
Lett.) on the grounds that I had used the word 'bubblet' which is 
not in Webster. I was refused support by ONR, AEC, and NSF 
on the grounds mentioned by one agency that 'the work was too 
speculative to spend government funds for it,' and I was denied 
access to the Cosmotron on the same grounds. These were not 
painful experiences because the University of Michigan found 
S750 to support my research for a year which was all that I really 
needed during that first year. 

One night during a summer physics colloquium extending over 
a week or two attended by Bruno Rossi, Chandresekhar, Uhlen- 
beck and a number of others, we were sitting around drinking 
beer in the local student pub when one of the men staring dreamily 
into the pitcher of beer on the centre of the table said, 'Glaser, 
bubble chambers ought to be really easy, you can see tracks in 
damn near anything.' All the teasing was good-natured, however, 
and the story had a happy ending. 

Bunsen burner 


When he first came to Heidelberg in the summer of 1852, Bunsen 
found himself installed in Gmelin's old laboratory. This was situa- 
ted in the buildings of an ancient monastery, and there we all 
worked. It was roomy enough; the old refectory was the main 
laboratory, the chapel was divided into two, one half became the 
lecture-room and the other a storehouse and museum. Soon the 
number of students increased and further extensions were needed, 
so the cloisters were enclosed by windows and working benches 
placed below them. Beneath the stone floor at our feet slept the 
dead monks, and on their tomb-stones we threw our waste pre- 
cipitates ! There was no gas in Heidelberg in those days; nor any 
town's water supply. We worked with Berzelius's spirit lamps, 
made our combustions with charcoal, boiled down our wash- 

From Bunsen 
Lecture, Journal of 
the Chemical 
Society-;-! (1900). 


waters from our silicate analyses in large glass globes over char- 
coal fires, and went for water to the pump in the yard. 

Some short time before the opening of the new laboratory, in 
1855, the town of Heidelberg was for the first time lighted with 
gas, and Bunsen had to consider what kind of gas-burner he 
would use for laboratory purposes. Returning from my Easter 
vacation in London, I brought back with me an Argand burner 
with copper chimney and wire-gauze top, which was the form 
commonly used in English laboratories at that time for working 
with a smokeless flame. This arrangement did not please Bunsen 
in the very least; the flame was flickering, it was too large, and the 
gas was so much diluted with air that the flame-temperature was 
gready depressed. He would make a burner in which the mixture 
of gas and air would burn at the top of the tube without any gauze 
whatsoever, giving a steady, small, and hot, non-luminous flame 
under conditions such that it not only would burn without striking 
down when the gas supply was turned on full, but also when the 
supply was diminished until only a minute flame was left. This was 
a difficult, some thought it an impossible, problem to solve, but 
after many fruitless attempts, and many tedious trials, he suc- 
ceeded, and the 'Bunsen burner' came to light. 

Illustration by 
courtesy of 
Negretti and 
Zambra Ltd. 

Report writing, like motor-car driving and love-making, is one 
of those activities which almost every Englishman thinks he can 
do well without instruction. The results are of course usually 

TOM MARGERISON, reviewing 'Writing Technical Reports'— 
by Bruce M Cooper, in the Sunday Times 3 January 1965 


Rutherford and Nature's whispers 


From 'Lord 
Rutherford: Man- 
chester', 1907-19: 
a partial portrait 
by A S Russell in 
Rutherford at 
Manchester ed 
J B Birks 
Hey wood) 1962. 

Rutherford's great gift was to design experiments that asked of 
Nature the most pertinent questions and then to brood for long 
over the answers. In this respect he was of the great company of 
Newton and Faraday. They knew what to ask and how to pay 
attention not so much to what Nature was saying as to what 
Nature was whispering. In this Rutherford was an artist. All his 
experiments had style. Let me illustrate : One of the early experi- 
ments he did at Manchester was with Royds on the identification 
of the a-particle with the atom of helium. He had known for years 
that the a-particle was likely to be the helium atom, but he had to 
make assurance doubly sure. A glass tube blown so thin that it 
allowed the a-particle easily to penetrate its walls was shown to be 
gas-tight. Filled with radon it was surrounded by a second glass 
tube highly evacuated. In this tube it was simple to show that 
helium accumulated with the passage of time as it got filled by the 
particles entering it. Then, in 1908, how beautiful, as well as how 
accurate, was Rutherford's determination of Avogadro's number ! 
He counted accurately the number of a-particles emitted in a 
given time by a known mass of radium and determined also the 
value of the charges the particles were carrying. From these data 
he obtained a value of Avogadro's number which was 40 per cent 
different from the best of earlier determinations but which is still 
within 3 per cent of the best determinations of today. Or again, 
think of the simplicity of the device developed by Geiger and 
himself to register a single a-particle. A wire charged almost to 
breaking potential and connected to an electrometer was inserted 
in a tube into which a very small stream of a-particles was allowed 
to enter. As one particle entered, its feeble ionization increased 
greatly by the ionization from collision, sufficed to cause a dis- 
charge easily registered by an electrometer. Or think of the work 
on the scattering of a-particles by thin films of metal where the 
number scattered through a given angle was counted by well- 
rested eyes in a dark room by the flashes which each one indivi- 
dually gave on a screen of zinc sulphide; or the comparison of 
two very disparate standards of y-radiation by putting each in 
turn on an optical bench at such distances from a measuring 
instrument that a constant result was recorded, and then invoking 
the inverse square law for the calculation. On a backward view 
one saw the beauty of the method of investigation as well as the 
ease with which the truth was arrived at. The minimum of fuss 
went with the minimum of error. With one movement from afar 
Rutherford, so to speak, threaded the needle first time. 


The organization of research — 1920 


Condensed from 
the address of the 
retiring Vice 
President and 
Chairman of the 
section for Zoo- 
logical Sciences, 
American Asso- 
ciation for the 
Advancement of 
Science, Chicago 
1920. Reprinted 
in Science 53, 53 

For this address I selected the most fashionable and exalted topic 
I could find, for you must all have observed that at the present time 
no word occurs with greater frequency and resonance in serious 
discourse than 'organization.' Everybody is so busy organizing 
something that the word's subtly concealed connotations of con- 
trol and regulation appear to be overlooked. The purpose of 
organization is instrumental, as is shown by the derivation of the 
word, from 'organon' or tool, or implement, which is in turn 
derived from 'ergo' to work. It is one of those superb, rotund 
words which dazzle and hypnotize the uplifter and eventually 
come to express the peculiar spirit or tendency of a whole period. 

These words, which for want of a better term I may call 'high- 
brow,' and the conceptions they embody, are so interesting that I 
will dwell on them for a moment. During the late Victorian period 
the most highbrow word was 'progress.' It disappeared and gave 
place to organization with the World War when we realized that 
the evolution of our race since the Neolithic Age was not nearly 
as substantial as we had imagined. Neither the Greeks nor the 
people of the Middle Ages seem to have had either of these words 
or their conceptions, though the Greeks, at least, did a fair amount 
of progressing and organizing. The Mediaeval highbrow words 
were 'chivalry' and 'honour,' the latter persisting down to the 
present day in Continental Europe in the German students' 
duelling code, a living fossil . . . Schopenhauer remarked that 
the duel and venereal diseases were the only contributions to 
culture the race had made since the classical period, overlooking 
the fact that the Greeks and the Japanese had their own highbrow 
words and institutions. Gilbert Murray has shown that the word 
'aidos,' which the Achaean chiefs of the Homeric age so solemnly 
uttered, was applied to a peculiar kind of chivalry, and the 'bushi- 
do' of the Japanese was another similar though independent 
invention. All of these conceptions— progress, organization, chi- 
valry, aidos, bushido— seem to start among the intellectual 
aristocracy and all imply a certain 'noblesse-oblige,' for there is no 
fun in continually exhorting others to progress unless you can 
keep up with the procession, or of organizing others unless you 
yearn to be organized yourself, just as there is no fun in getting up 
a duelling or bushido code unless you are willing to fight duels or 
commit harakiri whenever it is required by the rules of the game. 

Of course, the vogue of 'organization' was abnormally stimu- 
lated by the mobilization of armies and resources for the World 
War. We acquired the organizing habit with a vengeance and 


The organisation of research— 1 920 

have not since had time to reflect that there may be things in the 
world that it would be a profanation to organize— courtship, for 
example— or things not worth organizing— a vacuum, for example 
—or things than can not be organized, or if organizable, better 
left as they are— scientific research, perhaps. 

The oudine of this paper came to me, probably after prolonged 
subconscious incubation, while I was wondering how much coal I 
would save by using as an ersat^ the literature received during the 
past three years from that noble superorganization of super- 
organizers, the National Research Council. . . . 

Solar eclipse 


Self-appointed protectors of the people managed to persuade 
thousands of would-be observers in the totality path of the March 
7, 1970 solar eclipse into relinquishing the only chance of their life 
to experience the beauty and awe of this rare event. 

Our group set up instruments in the peanut farming belt of 
North Carolina. During the preparations, we met many local 
farmers who had been so frightened by the eclipse warnings of 
the news services that they swore not only to keep their TV- 
sets turned off but also to hide themselves inside their houses on 
account of the 'dangerous radiation' from the eclipsed sun. Not 
even the assurance and testimony of our own personal vigour 
and intents would change their minds, although I did note some 
bewilderment and faint relaxation after they realized our deter- 
mination to stay outside, and our audacity in daring all the deadly 
dangers which had been prophesied while the heavenly crisis 

In retrospect, and after realizing that about $io 12 have been 
spent on the restitution of education and science in the wake of 
the Sputnik Effect, I find myself amazed that 12 years of the Big 
Science Craze were still not sufficient to obliterate the credibility 
gaps between the scientists, the news media, and the rest of the 
populace of this nation. 

5 2 

How Newton discovered 
the law of gravitation 


Condensed from 
'How Newton 
Discovered the Law 
of Gravitation ' by 
James E Miller, 
The American 
Scientist, 39 no I, 

Few are familiar with the details of Newton's twenty-year search 
for a proof of his hypothesis : the frustrations and failures, the need 
for accurate measurements of the earth's radius and for a mathe- 
matical tool that Newton himself was forced to invent, and the 
integration of his scattered efforts by the splendid organization of 
the Fruit-Improvement Project. These details have been col- 
lected from his Principia, personal letters, notebooks, and other 
papers, and a series of personal interviews arranged by a medium 
of the author's acquaintance. 

In 1665 the young Newton became a professor of mathematics 
in the University of Cambridge, his alma mater. His services to 
his college went far beyond the mere act of classroom teaching. 
He was an able and active member of the college's curriculum 
committee, the board of the college branch of the Young Noble- 
men's Christian Association, the Dean's advisory committee on 
scholarships and awards, the committee for discipline, the ground 
committee, the publications committee, the ad hoc committee, and 
numerous other committees essential to the proper administration 
of a college in the seventeenth century. An exhaustive compila- 
tion of Newton's work along these lines reveals that, during a 
five-year period, he served on 379 committees, which investi- 
gated an aggregate of 7924 problems of campus life and solved 
3 1 of them. 

His unselfish devotion to the important work of his committees 
absorbed so much time that he was constrained to turn more and 
more of his teaching duties over to one of his students. He 
reasoned, quite correctly, that the substitution of a student as 
teacher in his place would benefit both the student and the 
student's students : the former because, in teaching, his own know- 
ledge would be enhanced ; and the latter because, in being taught 
by one near to them in age and interests, they would more eagerly 
grasp at the scraps of knowledge that came their way. 

At about this time Newton, whose mind was too active ever to 
let scientific problems recede from his attention, occasionally 
mulled over the great discoveries of Kepler on planetary motions 
and the hypothesis advanced by a number of astronomers, that 
these motions were governed by an attraction that varied in- 
versely as, the square of the distance between planets. One even- 
ing of a crowded day in the year 1680, a committee that was 
scheduled to meet at eleven o'clock, no earlier time being avail- 
able, was unable to muster a quorum because of the sudden death 
from exhaustion of one of the older committee members. Every 


How Newton discovered the law of gravitation 

waking moment of Newton's time was so carefully budgeted that 
he found himself with nothing to do until the next committee 
meeting at midnight. So he took a walk— a brief stroll that altered 
the history of the world. 

It was on this excursion into the night air of Cambridge that 
Newton chanced to see a particularly succulent apple fall to the 
ground. His immediate reaction was typical of the human side of 
this great genius. He climbed over the garden wall, slipped the 
apple into his pocket, and climbed out again. As soon as he had 
passed well beyond that particular garden, he removed the apple 
from his pocket and began munching it. Then came inspiration. 
Without prelude of conscious thought or logical process of 
reasoning, there was suddenly formed in his brain the idea that the 
falling of an apple and the motion of planets in their orbits may be 
governed by the same universal law. Before he had finished 
eating the apple and discarded the core, Newton had formulated 
his hypothesis of the universal law of gravitation. 

In the following weeks Newton's thoughts turned again and 
again to his hypothesis. Rare moments snatched between the 
adjournment of one committee and the call to order of another 
were filled with the formulation of plans for testing the hypo- 
thesis. Eventually, after several years during which, according to 
evidence revealed by diligent research, he was able to spend 63 
minutes and 28 seconds on his plans, Newton realized that the 
proof of his hypothesis would take more spare time than might 
become available during the rest of his life. He had to find accur- 
ate measurements of a degree of latitude on the earth's surface, 
and he had to invent the calculus. 

Finally he concluded that he must find some relief from his 
collegiate administrative burdens. He knew that it was possible 
to get the King's support for a worthy research project of definite 
aims, provided a guarantee could be made that the project would 
be concluded in a definite time at a cost exactly equal to the 
amount stipulated when the project was undertaken. Lacking 
experience in such matters, he adopted a commendably simple 
approach and wrote a short letter of 22 words to King Charles, 
oudining his hypothesis and pointing out its far-reaching impli- 
cations if it should prove to be correct. 

Eventually, Newton's letter and the bulky file of comments it 
had gathered on its travels reached the office of the secretary of 
HMPBRD/CINI/SSNBI-His Majesty's Planning Board for 
Research and Development/Committee for Investigation of New 


Ideas/Subcommittee for Suppression of Non-British Ideas. The 
secretary immediately recognized its importance and brought it 
before the subcommittee, which voted to ask Newton to testify. 

Newton's testimony before HMPBRD/CINI is recommended 
to all young scientists who may wonder how they will comport 
themselves when their time comes. His college considerately 
granted him two months' leave without pay while he was before 
the committee, and the Dean of Research sent him off with a 
joking admonition not to come back without a fat contract. The 
committee hearing was open to the public and was well attended, 
though it has been suggested that many of the audience had mis- 
taken the hearing room of HMPBRD/CINI for that of HMCE- 
VAUC— His Majesty's Committee for the Exposure of Vice 
Among the Upper Classes. 

After Newton was sworn to tell the truth and had denied that 
he was a member of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, had ever 
written any lewd books, had travelled in Russia, or had seduced any 
milkmaids, he was asked to outline his proposal. In a beautifully 
simple and crystal-clear ten-minute speech, delivered extem- 
poraneously, Newton explained Kepler's laws and his own hypo- 
thesis, suggested by the chance sight of an apple's fall. At this 
point one of the committee members, an imposing fellow, de- 
manded to know if Newton had a means of improving the breed 
of apples grown in England. Newton began to explain that the 
apple was not an essential part of the hypothesis, but he was inter- 
rupted by a number of committee members, all speaking at once 
in favour of a project to improve apples. This discussion con- 
tinued for several weeks, while Newton returned to his college 
and his important committee work. 

Several months later Newton was surprised to receive a bulky 
package from HMPBRD/CINI. He opened the package and 
found it contained a variety of government forms, each in quintu- 
plicate. His natural curiosity, the main attribute of the true 
scientist, provoked him into a careful study of the forms. After 
some time he concluded that he was being invited to submit a bid 
for a contract for a research project on the relationship between 
breed, quality, and rate of fall of apples. The ultimate purpose of 
the project, he read, was to develop an apple that not only tasted 
good but also fell so gently that it was not bruised by striking the 
ground. Now, of course, this was not what Newton had had in 
mind when he had written his letter to the King. But he was a 
practical man and he realized that, in carrying out the proposed 


How Newton discovered the law of gravitation 

project, he could very well test his hypothesis as a sort of sideline 
or by-product. Thus, he could promote the interests of the King 
and do his little bit for science in the bargain. 

Having made his decision, Newton began filling out the forms 
without further hesitation. A true believer in correct administra- 
tive procedures, Newton sent the completed forms by special 
messenger to the Dean of Research, for transmittal through proper 
channels to HMPBRD/CINI. His adherence to established pro- 
cedure was rewarded a few days later when the Dean of Re- 
search summoned him and outlined a new plan, broader in scope 
and more sweeping in its conception. The Dean pointed out that 
not only apples but also cherries, oranges, lemons, and limes fell to 
earth, and while they were about it they might as well obtain a 
real, man-sized government contract to cover all the varieties of 
fruit that grow above the ground. Newton started to explain the 
misunderstanding about the apples but he stopped rather than 
interrupt the Dean, who was outlining a series of conferences he 
proposed to organize among fruit growers and representatives of 
various departments of His Majesty's Government. The Dean's 
eyes began to glaze as he talked, and he became unaware that 
anybody else was in the room. Newton had an important com- 
mittee meeting at that time, so he quietly went out the door, 
leaving the Dean of Research in an ecstasy of planning. 

The season passed, while Newton led a busy, useful life as a 
member of many committees and chairman of some. One dark 
winter's day he was called again to the office of the Dean of Re- 
search. The Dean was beaming. The project was to be supported 
by no less than five different branches of His Majesty's Govern- 
ment plus a syndicate of seven large fruit growers. Newton's part 
in the project was to be small but important: he was to direct the 
Subproject for Apples. 

The following weeks were busy ones for Newton. Though 
relieved from his committee work (a young instructor of Greek, 
Latin, history and manual training took his place on the com- 
mittees), he found himself cast into a morass of administrative 
problems. He personally filled out 7852 forms, often in quintu- 
plicate and sextuplicate ; he interviewed 306 serving wenches and 
hired no of them as technical assistants. With his own hands he 
cleaned out an abandoned dungeon in a nearby castle for use as 
subproject headquarters; and, turning carpenter in typically 
versatile fashion, he erected twelve temporary buildings to house 


his staff. These buildings, used today as classrooms, stand as a 
monument to Newton's career. 

This period of his life was a happy and profitable one for New- 
ton. From the time he rose in the morning until, exhausted with 
honest labour, he dropped late at night back into his humble bed of 
straw, he spent each day filling out payroll forms for his serving 
wenches, ordering pens and paper, answering the questions of 
the financial office, and showing distinguished visitors and the 
Dean of Research around his subproject. Each week he wrote out 
a full progress report which was duplicated and sent by special 
messenger to 3388 other projects sponsored by His Majesty's 
Government throughout the British Isles. 

One of these remarkable documents, in an excellent state of 
preservation, can be found in the Museum of the Horticultural 
Society of West Wales. In typically logical style, the report, 
bound in a dark red stiff cover bearing the project number, 
HM2wr 3801^(293), stamped in gold leaf, opens with a succinct 
table of contents: 

1. Administration 

2. Conferences 

3. Correspondence 

4. Supplies 

5. Results of research 

The last section, 'Results of research,' may have been lost dur- 
ing the intervening years, or it may not have been specifically 
required under the terms of His Majesty's contract of that era. 
At any rate it is not there. But the other sections remain to gladden 
the hearts of those permitted to read them. 

One day in 1685 Newton's precise schedule was interrupted. He 
had set aside a Tuesday afternoon to receive a committee of vice 
presidents of the fruit growers' syndicate when, much to his 
horror and Britain's deep sorrow, the news spread that the whole 
committee had been destroyed in a three-stagecoach smashup. 
As once before, Newton found himself with a hiatus. He took a 
leisurely walk through the luscious vineyards of the Subproject 
on Grapes, but, not, of course, until he had obtained security 
clearance at the gate. While on this walk there came to him, he 
knew not how ('Ye thought just burst upon me,' he later wrote) 
a new and revolutionary mathematical approach which, in less 
time than it takes to tell about it, could be used to solve the 


How Newton discovered the law of gravitation 

problems of attraction in the neighbourhood of a large sphere. 
Newton realized that the solution to this problem provided one 
of the most exacting tests of his hypothesis; and furthermore, he 
knew, without need of pen and paper to demonstrate the fact to 
himself, that the solution fully supported his hypothesis. We can 
well imagine his elation at this brilliant discovery; but we must not 
overlook his essential humility, which led him forthwith to kneel 
and offer thanks to the King for having made the discovery 

On his return from this walk, Newton stopped for a moment to 
browse in a bookstore, where he accidentally knocked a book to 
the floor. With apologies to the proprietor, Newton retrieved the 
book and dusted it off. It was Norwood's Sea-Man's Practice, 
dated 1636. Opening the book at random, Newton found it con- 
tained the exact information on the length of a latitude degree 
that he required for the complete test of his hypothesis. Almost 
instantaneously, one part of his brain performed several lightning 
calculations and presented the result for the other part to examine ; 
and there it was: the proof complete and irrefutable. Newton 
glanced at the hourglass and with a start remembered that he was 
due back at the dungeon to sign the serving wenches' time slips 
as they checked out for the day. He hurried out of the bookshop. 

Thus it was that His Majesty's Government supported and en- 
couraged Newton during the trying years in which he was put- 
ting his hypothesis to the test. Let us not dally with the story of 
Newton's efforts to publish his proof, the misunderstanding with 
the editor of the Horticultural Journal, the rejections by the editors 
of the Backyard Astronomer and Physics for the Housewife, suffice 
it to say that Newton founded his own journal in order to make 
sure that his proof would be published without invalidating alter- 
ations. Regrettably, he named his journal Star and Planet, with the 
result that he was branded a subversive since Star could mean 
Red Star and Planet could mean Plan-It. Newton's subsequent 
testimony before the Subcommittee for Suppression of Non- 
British Ideas remains a convincing demonstration of the great 
qualities that combined to make him a genius. Eventually he was 
exonerated, and after enjoying many years of the fame that was 
due him, reigning one day each year as King of the Apple Festival, 
Newton died happily. 


Graduate students 


From 'Memories 
of Rutherford' 'in 
Rutherford at 
Manchester ed 
J B Birks 
(London: Hey- 
wood) 1962. 

Even in the Cavendish period when apparatus was inevitably 
getting more complicated, Rutherford could be disconcertingly 
unappreciative of experimental and constructional difficulties. I 
can confirm from personal experience what others have said, that 
Rutherford took only a minimal interest in one's work during these 
years of laborious constructional work : indeed, he was often so 
impatient for results that the young research student had often to 
exert some will-power to resist being unduly hurried. His own 
main personal results had been achieved with apparatus of ex- 
quisite simplicity— a simplicity arising both from his genius and 
from the nature of his chosen work— and he was slow to admit 
that these days were over for the time being, and complexity of 
apparatus was likely to grow and grow. 

Once physical results arose from a student's experiment, then 
Rutherford became the stimulating and genial visitor to one's 
room. Rutherford's main role in these later Cavendish days (when, 
of course, he was already a man of affairs with many calls on his 
time) was to give the new student a fertile problem, leave him to 
it for a year or two, ignore all the years of travail, but welcome the 
eventual results with enthusiasm. It is surprising how well the 
method worked. 

Rutherford once said he had never given a student a dud prob- 
lem ! Napoleon is reported to have once said, 'There are no bad 
soldiers, only bad generals'. Rutherford might have adapted this 
remark to some of his colleagues (and I think he certainly would 
have, if he had thought of it, for he had a sharp tongue particularly 
in the dark room while counting scintillations), 'There are no bad 
research students, only bad professors'. 



Nature and Nature 's laws lay hid in night. 
God said, Let Newton be ! and all was light. 


It did not last: the Devil howling e Ho ! 
Let Einstein be ! restored the status quo. 


Take away your billion dollars — 1946 


[Written while the Brookhaven National Laboratory was being planned] 

Upon the lawns of Washington the physicists assemble, 

From all the land are men at hand, their wisdom to exchange. 

A great man stands to speak, and with applause the rafters tremble. 

'My friends, ' says he, 'You all can see that physics now must change. 

Now in my lab we had our plans, but these we '11 now expand, 

Research right now is useless, we have come to understand. 

We now propose constructing at an ancient Army base, 

The best electronuclear machine in any place. — Oh 

'It will cost a billion dollars, ten billion volts 'twill give, 

It will take five thousand scholars seven years to make it live. 

All the generals approve it, all the money's now in hand, 

And to help advance our program, teaching students now we ve banned. 

We have chartered transportation, we '11 provide a weekly dance, 

Our motto 's integration, there is nothing left to chance. 

This machine is just a model for a bigger one, of course, 

That's the future road for physics, as I hope you'll all endorse.' 

And as the halls with cheers resound and praises fill the air, 
One single man remains aloof and silent in his chair. 
And when the room is quiet and the crowd has ceased to cheer, 
He rises up and thunders forth an answer loud and clear : 
'It seems that I'm a failure, just a piddling dilettante, 
Within six months a mere ten thousand bucks is all I've spent, 
With love and string and sealing wax was physics kept alive, 
Let not the wealth of Midas hide the goal for which we strive. — Oh 

'Take away your billion dollars, take away your tainted gold, 
You can keep your damn ten billion volts, my soul will not be sold. 
Take away your army generals ; their kiss is death, I'm sure. 
Everything I build is mine, and every volt I make is pure. 
Take away your integration; let us learn and let us teach, 
Oh, beware this epidemic Berkeleyitis, I beseech. 
Oh, dammit! Engineering isn't physics, is that plain? 
Take, oh take, your billion dollars, let's be physicists again. 


Ten years later — 1956 


Within the halls of NSF the panelists assemble. 

From all the land the experts hand their wisdom to exchange. 

A great man stands to speak and with applause the rafters tremble. 

'My friends, ' says he, 'we all can see that budgets now must change. 

By toil and sweat the Soviet have reached ten billion volts. 

Shall we downtrodden physicists submit? No, no, — revolt! 

It never shall be said that we let others lead the way. 

We '11 band together all our finest brains and save the day. 

Give us back our billion dollars, better add ten billion more. 
If your budget looks unbalanced, just remember this is war. 
Never mind the Army's shrieking, never mind the Navy's pain. 
Never mind the Air Force projects disappearing down the drain. 
In coordinates barycentric, every BeV means lots of cash, 
There will be no cheap solutions, — neither straight nor synchroclash. 
If we outbuild the Russians, it will be because we spend. 
Give, oh give those billion dollars, let them flow without an end. 

[Folklore records that the brave and solitary scientist who so vigorously 
defended the purity of science at the original meeting was killed by 
a beam of hyperons when the Berkeley Bevatron was first switched on.] 

Standards for inconsequential trivia 

From The NBS 

S andard 15 

(1 January 1970). 


io -15 bismol = 

io -12 boos = 

1 boo 2 = 
io -18 boys = 
io 12 bulls = 
io 1 cards = 
io -9 goats = 

2 gorics = 
io -3 ink machines = 
io 9 los = 
io -1 mate = 
io -2 mental = 
io -2 pedes = 
io 6 phones = 
io -6 phones = 
io 12 pins = 


1 femto-bismol 
1 picoboo 
1 boo boo 
1 attoboy 
1 terabull 
1 decacards 
1 nanogoat 
1 paregoric 
1 millink machine 
1 gigalo 
1 decimate 
1 centimental 
1 centipede 
1 megaphone 
1 microphone 
1 terapin 

How radar began 


Extracted from \In 1334, the problem of getting advance warning against massed air 
One Story of Radar attac ^ s seeme d insuperable. The Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air 
University Press) Defence was formed in November of that year, and prepared to consider 
t j)48. its first question. At the time, R A Watson-Watt was Superintendent of 

the Radio Department of the National Physical Laboratory.] 

For many years the 'death ray' had been a hardy annual among 
optimistic inventors. The usual claim was that by means of a ray 
emanating from a secret device (known to us in the Air Ministry 
as a Black Box) the inventor had killed rabbits at short distances 
and if only he were given time and money, particularly money, he 
would produce a bigger and better ray which would destroy any 
object, such as an aircraft, on to which the ray was directed. In- 
ventors were diffident about discussing the contents of their black 
boxes and, despite the protection afforded by the patent laws, 
invariably wanted some of the taxpayers' money before there 
could be any discussion of their ideas. The Ministry solved the 
problem by offering £1000 to any owner of a Black Box who 
could demonstrate the killing of a sheep at a range of 100 yards, 
the secret to remain with its owner. 

The mortality rate of sheep was not affected by this offer. The 
idea of a death ray however was not absurd and something of the 
kind may come within a hundred years. Because of the recurring 
claims regarding such rays, there is litde doubt that, in writing to 
Watson- Watt, it was hoped to dispose of the problem, one way or 
the other, before the Committee met; the problem being whether 
it was possible to concentrate in an electromagnetic beam suffi- 
cient energy to melt the metal structure of an aircraft or incapa- 
citate the crew. Watson-Watt's answer to the death-ray question 
was a simple one. He said that, although there was no possibility 
of directing enough energy on to an aircraft to produce a lethal 
effect at useful distances, it should be possible to locate the plan 
position of an aircraft by measuring its distances from two points 
on the ground. The principle was simple enough. Every schoolboy 
knows that he can measure his distance from a cliff by timing the 
interval between his shout and the reception of the echo from the 
cliff. Watson-Watt proposed that a pulse or 'shout' of electro- 
magnetic energy (which travels at about 186000 miles per 
second) should be emitted from a point on the ground so as to be 
incident on an aircraft which, he calculated, would reflect or re- 
radiate back sufficient energy to enable an 'echo' to be received. 

The principle involved was not new. E V Appleton and others 
had by this method measured distances from electrically charged 


layers in the atmosphere and had located the positions of thunder- 
storms by obtaining reflections from electrically charged clouds. 

Realizing that calculations were not enough, the committee 
wanted the earliest possible practical demonstration that Watson- 
Watt's proposals were worth pursuing; they wanted a demon- 
stration of what scientists call an 'effect'. Watson- Watt therefore 
proposed that an aircraft should fly in the 50 metre Daventry 
(continuous-wave) radio beam used for Empire broadcasting and 
that he should erect simple equipment on the ground to demon- 
strate whether sufficient energy was reflected from the aircraft 
to produce an 'effect' with his instruments. 

This was done near Daventry on 26 February 193 f. Graphic 
accounts have been written of this demonstration, of how senior 
officers from the fighting Services went to Daventry on that great 
day; how for the first time the position of an aircraft was obtained 
by radar and how success was hailed with congratulations from 
the distinguished onlookers. In fact, none of these things hap- 
pened. Though there was not a demonstration of the location of an 
aircraft, what happened was significant enough. Overnight one of 
Watson-Watt's assistants, A F Wilkins, had erected equipment in 
a van near Daventry. All that was hoped of this equipment was 
that it would show that an aircraft, when in the Daventry beam, 
would reflect enough of the beam's energy for its presence some- 
where in the vicinity to be inferred from observations in the van. 
This is just what happened on 26 February 1935. So far from the 
demonstration being witnessed by distinguished officers from the 
Services, the sole representative from the Service departments 
was one humble civilian scientific worker. 

We were pleased with the demonstration, since reflections from 
the aircraft were obtained when it was estimated to be about eight 
miles away, but we knew that we had not seen the location of an 
aircraft by radio. 

[Pulse equipment soon demonstrated that the system worked at longer 
ranges. Within a few years radar had grown into a major industry :] 

In his speech at a conference on accelerators (October 1968, 
Moscow) Academician M A Markov quoted the words of Joliot- 
Curie : 'The farther the experiment is from theory the closer it is 
to the Nobel Prize.' 


Building research 


From an address When I was concerned with planning my own building in 1958, 
ttedTsi'gTof phy" 1 ^id not f° resee tnat ^ tni n a few years I should be making geo- 
sics laboratories, physical instruments; and, although I had tried to check that the 
University of site of the new building was as stable as possible, it has not turned 
Lancaster (1969). QUt tQ ^ e ag sta y e as our buildbg. The instrument on which 

the deficiency shows up particularly is a tiltmeter which records 
the local inclination of the Earth's surface relative to the apparent 
direction of gravity. I was just starting to make this type of 
instrument as we moved to the new building; and at the old site 
I quickly found that there was a rhythmic change in the tilt of the 
Earth's surface, of the order of a few parts in ten million, which 
followed the tide in the North Sea. The cause is the extra weight 
of water at high tide, which compresses the sea-bed and thus tilts 
the land eastward. One could even 'see' the difference between 
spring and neap tides. These effects are much harder, and often 
impossible, to observe in the new building, because there are 
other and larger effects which often obscure them. I have still not 
located all the trouble, but one of its causes is the Sun, which 
seems to repel the building when it comes out. The effect is pro- 
bably due to the fact that the building is situated on a slight rise, 
and the heat of the Sun causes the ground to expand more on one 
side of the building than the other, so that the buildbg tilts away 
from the Sun. 

The whole building floats like a ship in a sea of sand; and— also 
like a ship— it alters its trim as the weight distribution shifts as 
people move about. Had I not been there at the time I would have 
been very puzzled by a rhythmic tilt of period about one minute, 
which at first looked like an unusual effect of a distant earthquake. 
The buildbg was gently rocking to and fro with an amplitude of a 
few parts in a hundred million, owbg to the shift of weight as a 
conscientious cleaner moved herself and her floor polisher back- 
wards and forwards progressively along the buildbg. 

In partial compensation for these tribulations, I received a 
letter some months ago: 

'At school, for science, our teacher said that Aberdeen slants 
when the tide comes b. Our class does not believe this but if it is 
true we would like some bformation about why this happens. 
We hope it isn't too much trouble because all of us are very b- 
terested in findbg out more about it. 

Yours sbcerely, 
Eleanor Wallace. 
(Please write back)' 


My reply to this letter met with a warm response: 
'Thank you very much for sending me the diagrams and explan 
ation on Aberdeen. It was very good of you to take the time. 

Yours faithfully, 
Eleanor Wallace 

Research sometimes has its unforeseen rewards. 

Perils of modern living 


A kind of matter directly opposed to the matter known on earth 
exists somewhere else in the universe, Dr Edward Teller has said 
.... He said there may be anti-stars and anti-galaxies entirely 
composed of such anti-matter. Teller did not describe the proper- 
ties of anti-matter except to say there is none of it on earth, and 
that it would explode on contact with ordinary matter. 

San Francisco Chronicle,. 

Well up beyond the tropostrata 
There is a region stark and stellar 
Where, on a streak of anti-matter, 
Lived Dr Edward Anti-Teller. 

Remote from Fusion 's origin, 
He lived unguessed and unawares 
With all his anti-kith and kin, 
And kept macassars on his charis. 

One morning, idling by the sea, 
He spied a tin of monstrous girth 
That bore three letters : A. E. C. 
Out stepped a visitor from Earth. 

Then, shouting gladly o er the sands, 
Met two who in their alien ways 
Were like as lentils. Their right hands 
Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays. 

From The New 
Yorker 10 Novem- 
ber 1956. 


Predictions and comments 


I am tired of all this thing called science here. . . . We have 
spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is 
time it should be stopped. 

Senator Simon Cameron (1901) 


We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial great- 
ness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time, 
and the money involved, in further airship experiments. Life is too 
short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably 
greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly. . . . For 
students and investigators of the Langley type there are more 
useful employments. 

New York Times, December 10, 1903, editorial page 

The demonstration that no possible combination of known sub- 
stances, known forms of machinery and known forms of force, 
can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long 
distances through the air, seems to the writer as complete as it is 
possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be. 

Simon Newcomb (1835— 1909) 


There is no plea which will justify the use of high-tension and 
alternating currents, either in a scientific or a commercial sense. 
They are employed solely to reduce investment in copper wire and 
real estate. 

My personal desire would be to prohibit entirely the use of 
alternating currents. They are unnecessary as they are danger- 
ous. ... I can therefore see no justification for the introduction 
of a system which has no element of permanency and every ele- 
ment of danger to life and property. 

I have always consistently opposed high-tension and alterna- 
ting systems of electric lighting, not only on account of danger, 
but because of their general unreliability and unsuitability for any 
general system of distribution. 

Thomas A Edison 1889 


That Professor Goddard with his 'chair' in Clark College and the 
countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the 
relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something 


better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be 
absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out 
daily in high schools. . . . 

New York Times editorial 192 1 

I would much prefer to have Goddard interested in real scientific 
development than to have him primarily interested in more spec- 
tacular achievements which are of less real value. 

Charles A Lindbergh to the Guggenheim Foundation 1936 


As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, you just can't 
do it. 

US Rear-Admiral Clark Woodward (1939) 


There has been a great deal said about a 3000 miles high-angle 
rocket. In my opinion such a thing is impossible for many years. 
The people who have been writing these things that annoy me, 
have been talking about a 3000 mile high-angle rocket shot from 
one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb and so directed 
as to be a precise weapon which would land exacdy on a certain 
target, such as a city. 

I say, technically, I don't think anyone in the world knows how 
to do such a thing, and I feel confident that it will not be done for 
a very long period of time to come. ... I think we can leave that 
out of our thinking. I wish the American public would leave that 
out of their thinking. 

Dr Vannevar Bush (1945) 


That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will 
never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives. 

Adm William Leahy to President Truman 1945 


Even if the propeller had the power of propelling the boat, it 
would be found altogether useless in practice, because the power 
being applied in the stern it would be absolutely impossible to make 
the vessel steer. 

Sir William Symonds, Surveyor of the Royal Navy (1837) 


Predictions and comments 


In 191 3 Lee de Forest, inventor of the audion tube, was brought 
to trial on charges of fraudulendy using the US mails to sell the 
public stock in the Radio Telephone Company. The District 
Attorney charged that 

'De Forest has said in many newspapers and over his signature 
that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the 
Adantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliber- 
ately misleading statements, the misguided public . . . has been 
persuaded to purchase stock in his company.' 

Little Willie, 
Lovingly col- 
lected by Dorothy 
Rickard, Illus- 
trated by Robert 
Day (New York: 
Doubleday) 1953. 

Little Willie, full of glee, 
Put radium in Grandma's tea. 
Now he thinks it quite a lark 
To see her shining in the dark. 


Which units of length? 


Units of length have been available to the general public for a 
long time but the recent drive to advertise one particular brand 
has led us to publish this report for the assistance of our members. 


We found that the units fell into fairly well defined brands or 
'systems' from which we have selected three in general use. Two 
of these, the 'Rule of Thumb 5 and the 'British' (known as 'Imperial 
Standard' in the days when we had an empire) are manufactured 
in this country; the third, the 'Metric', is imported but fairly 
readily obtainable. 


We asked a panel of members to use units of the selected brands 
and to comment on their convenience. We also submitted samples 
to a well-known laboratory to find out how reliable they were. 
The selected units and the results of the tests are listed in the 


Brand Unit Reliability Convenience 

in use 

Metric 'micron' excellent fair 1 

British thou good good 

Rule of Thumb hair's breadth poor hopeless 

Metric millimetre excellent fair 2 

British inch good good 

Rule of Thumb thumb poor excellent 

Metric metre excellent good 

British yard fair to good 3 good 

foot good good 

Rule of Thumb pace of stride fair excellent 

foot (ie size fair to good 4 excellent 

of shoe) 

1 Difficult to handle for everyday use and available to special order only 

2 Our panel found it about 25-4 times too small 

3 Some samples tended to shrink 

4 Users with big feet get better results 


The 'Rule of Thumb' was cheap, robust, very convenient and 
readily obtainable. On the other hand, it was not sufficiently 
accurate for all purposes. 
The 'British' was convenient and readily obtainable, but some 


Which units of length } 

doubts exist as to its reliability. Nevertheless, it seems likely to 
remain popular for a long time. 

The 'Metric' is very reliable but not always as convenient to use 
as the other brands. 


For general use— Rule of Thumb 

For scientists and for others whose arithmetic is weak— Metric. 

<^S*lpiU tilt^piit \t^af»Jii M^i^miu ttfc^yi^miA^yXJt trtffii 

Condensed from 
Reflections on 'Big 
Bang' Cosmology 
by R A Alpher 
and R Herman, 
General Electric 
Research and 
Center Technical 
Information Series 
May 1969, p 6. 

Alpher, Bethe and Gamow 

[In contrast to the bogus paper 'Remarks on the Quantum Theory of 
the Absolute Zero of Temperature' (p 24), the paper 'The Origin of the 
Chemical Elements' published in 1948, was entirely serious. It proposed 
the neutron-capture theory of formation of the elements. Only the names 
of the authors had a spurious ring — in fact it is usually referred to as the 
a/?y paper. The theory was evolved by Alpher under Gamow's direction^ 

Meetings with Gamow during the course of the thesis work were 
primarily progress reports followed by wide-ranging discussions 
of physics. Those meetings were usually held in the late after- 
noon at a dimly lit bar and grill called 'Little Vienna' near the 
campus of George Washington University. The fare occasionally 
made for an interesting state for both student and professor at 
lectures later in the evening. 

Once Gamow, with the usual twinkle in his eye, suggested that 
we add the name of Hans Bethe to an Alpher-Gamow letter to 
the Editor of the Physical Review, with the remark 'in absentia' 
after the name. At some point between receipt of the manuscript 
at Brookhaven and publication in the April 1, 1948 issue (believe 
it or not, a date not of our asking), the 'in absentia was removed. 

Gamow enjoyed the rather considerable publicity it engendered 
(though his student did not). Watson Davis, then editor of Science 
Service, wrote a news column on the thesis subject which said in 
essence that 'the universe had been created' in less than half an 
hour and more nearly in five minutes— referring in a popular way 
to the neutron half-life time scale of nucleosynthesis. The response 
was fascinating, ranging from feature articles, Sunday supplement 
stories, newspaper cartoons and voluminous mail from religious 
fundamentalists, to a packed audience of over 200, including 
members of the press, at the traditionally public (though usually 
not in this sense) 'defence' of the thesis. 


Electromagnetic units: 1 

From Nature 130, [Few questions have made physicists lose their sense of humour more often 
987 (1932). than that debated by a committee in Paris in 2932 — electromagnetic units. 

One topic was: 'Are B and H quantities of the same kind and is their 
ratio n a pure numeric ? Or should p be treated as a dimensional quan- 
tity?' The committee was divided on national lines, the British pinning 
their faith on magnetic poles, French physicists favouring the force between 
two currents as a basis for their system. An unusual note entered into the 
deliberations at one point.] 

In the course of the discussion, the chairman, Sir Richard Glaze- 
brook, referred to the fact that he was one of the last surviving 
pupils of Maxwell and he felt convinced from recollections of 
Maxwell's teaching that he was of the opinion that B and H were 
quantities of a different kind. "When a vote was taken, nine were in 
favour of treating B and H as quantities of a different nature, 
whilst three were in favour of regarding B and H as quantities of 
the same nature. 

Electromagnetic units: 2 


From Helvetica [Although we perhaps pay less regard to the authority of the past, the 
Physica Acta 41 controversy is by no means dead, because one system of electromagnetic 
741 ^ definitions tends to be incorporated into the MKS system of units. The 

following article appears, incongruously, in a 600-page Festschrift 
dedicated in 1968 to Georg Busch and published in a volume of Helvetica 
Physica Acta.] 

Once upon a time there was in a faraway country a great, great 
kitchen in which many cooks plied their trade and in which there 
was a great profusion of pots and pans and kettles and cauldrons 
and bowls and basins of every size and kind and description. Some 
of these vessels were empty but others contained eggs or rice or 
apples or spices and many other delectable things. Now the cooks, 
if they were not busy broiling and baking and cooking and frying 
and preparing sundry soups and sauces, amused themselves with 
philosophical speculation and so it came to happen that the art of 
tagenometry (from rayrjvov, a frying-pan) was developed to 
great perfection. Sometimes it was even referred to as panmetry, 


RWS - D 

Electromagnetic units : z 

the art of measuring everything, but the ignorant scullions, mis- 
interpreting the word, promptly also spoke about potmetry, much 
the same way in which the transatlantic chefs have supple- 
mented the hamburger with a cheeseburger. 

To every vessel tagenometry assigned a volume V. This was 
measured in cubic inches and determined by measuring dimen- 
sions with great precision and by then applying the formulae of 
solid geometry or in case of irregular shapes by numerical inte- 
gration on a beanheaded abacus. But to every vessel there was 
also assigned an entirely different quantity, the volumetric dis- 
placement W. This was measured in gallons and determined by 
filling the vessel with water, pouring out the water, weighing 
said water in pounds avoirdupois, correcting for temperature and 
dividing by 10. The ratio of volumetric displacement and volume 
was referred to as the volumetric constant, e = W\V. In the 
course of time it became clear that this volumetric constant had 
the same value for every empty vessel ; this became known as the 
volumetric constant of empty space, e 0 . But for other vessels the 
volumetric constant behaved often in an erratic way. It changed 
after thermal treatment, or simply with time; it depended on the 
speed of measurement. Also the dynamic behaviour of moving 
non-empty pans posed curious problems. 

One day a wise man entered the kitchen and after having lis- 
tened to the worried cooks he said: 'I can solve your problems. 
There is really only one tagenometric quantity, let us call it the 
volume and measure it in cubic centimetres. Weighing water will 
give the same value for an empty vessel if you take the weight in 
grams. So your volumetric constant of empty space is just unity. 
But in a non-empty pan part of the volume is occupied by edibles 
like potatoes or pears or plums; let us call this volume P. Then, 
with the water-method you determine V — P. In many cases P 
will be proportional to V, that is P= xV. Then the water-weight 
volume, your volumetric displacement, is W = V — kV = 
(i — k) Fand hence e= i — k. What you really should study is P 
and its dependence on the constitution and preparation of the 
victuals. And instead of studying the dynamics of a non-empty 
pan, you should study the motion of the things it contains'. 

The cooks understood, yet they looked crestfallen. 'But our 
beautiful units' they said. 'What about our goldplated pounds and 
ounces and drams? Look at that wonderful half-perch in yon 
corner, neatly subdivided into 99 inches. It would be ill-con- 
venient to change all that'. The wise man smiled. 'There is no 


real need to change' he said. 'As long as you are sure to remember 
that e 0 is just a way to change from one unit to another and that P 
and k are the only physically relevant quantities, you can work in 
any system of units you like'. 

The years went by. The wise man had died, new generations of 
cooks worked in the kitchen and got restive over the principles 
of tagenometry. 'How crazy', they said. 'Isn't it obvious that V 
and W are quite different quantities, since they are determined in 
quite different ways ? And why should the volumetric constant of 
empty space be unity ? Is a pot of rice not just as good or better 
h an an empty pot ?' These protests prevailed. It was decided at 
an international congress that even if volume and volumetric 
displacement were identical in magnitude the one should be 
measured in Euclid— this being a cubic centimetre— the other in 
Archimedes. The volumetric displacement of empty space — 
although equal to unity— had the dimension Archimedes/Euclid. 
And after having created order in this way, the new generation 
has returned to inches and pounds, and brands as reactionary 
anyone who heeds the wise lessons of the wise man. 

That is how today's cooks spend their moments of leisure; let 
us hope that their cuisine will not suffer. 

British units 

One recommended British unit of thermal conductivity— useful 
for calculating the heat transmission of walls— is: 

BThU/hour/sq ft/cm/°F 

■t*h<y»ifrAt ( n> <ji* ^ j < ut ^^jjj^w^jjjj^w ^,, im yrfr j d i m tfwp a, m *s?!^m 


The jar is the Service unit, and is very useful when dealing with 
the small capacities met with in ordinary wireless practice. 

i farad = 9 X io 8 (nine hundred million) jars 
1 (xF = 900 jars 

[It was a big jar, 1 0 metres in radius, more like a balloon. By 1937 this 
unit was made obsolete or at any rate obsolescent to bring Royal Naval 
practice into line with commercial] 

From the 
Handbook of 

Telegraphy 193 1. 




[James Prescott Joule was already well known at the age oj 23 for his 
experiments on the design and efficiency of electric motors and for his 
enunciation of the PR law. But galvanism remained mysterious. In 1 840 
he tried the effect of electricity on a lame horse and the next year he recorded 
the following. Who 'she' was and whether the word 'patient' meant a sick 
or mentally sick person, cannot be determined^ 

1 841, May 31. Monday 6.00 PM. I took two batteries, each con- 
sisting of 10 double pairs (copper & zinc) charged with very 
dilute S. acid, and connected their extremeties with copper plates 
(4 ins square) by means of copper wire; between these plates and 
the skin of the patient two pieces of flannel soaked in salt water 
were placed. Negative on the right cheek. Plates half way be- 
tween the chin and the ears. The action was continued for about 
13 minutes during which she felt the usual pricking sensation, 
with the tremulous feeling all over the face and neck, terminating 
at the shoulders and eyes, and occasioning a strong taste in the 
mouth. The flannel and plates were then removed so as to cover 
the ears for one minute when she felt a very strong action through 
the head, her eyes shut and she quivered very strongly, and she 
fainted, and it was thought advisable to terminate the operations. 

From a notebook 
in the custody of 
the Director of 
the Manchester 
Museum of 
Science & 

Newspaper Air sacs give birds buoyancy in flight. To watch a large bird on a 
report. cpxLox summer's day keep or gain altitude in spiraling, soaring 

flight on uprising air currents of such slight lifting power that they 
will scarcely support a dust particle or a tiny-winged insect, 
makes the beholder know that the bird's buoyancy must be 
achieved by more than just outward design. And that it is ! Scat- 
tered within the bird's cavity are at least five air sacs that take up 
every bit of space not occupied by other organs . . . Besides, 
these extensive buoyant compartments connect yet farther with 
many of the bird's hollow bones . . . 


Infancy of x-rays 


From American X-rays were discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen at Wiirz- 
(3loecembefi945 kurg, Germany, on November 8, 1895. The discovery amazed 
and excited both physicists and the general public. Newspapers 
reported wild rumours, extravagant claims, and fanciful specula- 

'It is suggested that, if all that has reached us by cable is true, there will 
no longer be any privacy in a man's home, as anyone with a vacuum 
tube outfit can obtain a full view of any interior through a brick wall.' 

Another news item suggested that an x-ray could bring back life 
and that cathode rays (there was confusion of cathode rays with 
x-rays amongst both the general public and the physicists) could 
be used for resuscitating electrocuted persons. 

The possibility of photographing the human skeleton through 
the flesh amazed the public. The following is quoted from the 
Scientific American of February 22, 1896: 

'The new photography has moved the English heart to poetry. The 
following verses are not by the new Poet Laureate, but they shed new 
light upon the future uses to which the shadow photographs may be put. 
Our thanks are due London Punch, to whom we are indebted: 

O Roentgen, then the news is true 

And not a trick of idle rumour 
That bids us each beware of you 

And of your grim and graveyard humour. 

We do not want, like Dr Swift, 

To take our flesh off and to pose in 
Our bones, or show each little rift 

And joint for you to poke your nose in. 

We only crave to contemplate 

Each other's usual full dress photo; 
Your worse than 'altogether' state 

Of portraiture we bar in toto! 

The fondest swain would scarcely pri^e 

A picture of his lady's framework; 
To ga^e on this with yearning eyes 

Would probably be rated tame work. 

No, keep them for your epitaph 

These tombstone souvenirs unpleasant; 
Or go away and photograph 

Mahatmas, spooks, and Mrs Besant. 


Infancy of x-rays 

The Mrs Besant of the poem was a prominent English theo- 
sophist (some people called her a spiritualist) of 1896. 

Finally, Sir Arthur Schuster's description in The Progress of 
Physics of his experiences with the public in early 1896 is worth 

'My laboratory was inundated by medical men bringing patients, who 
were suspected of having needles in various parts of their bodies, and 
during one week I had to give the best part of three mornings to locating 
a needle in the foot of a ballet dancer, whose ailment had been diag- 
nosed as bone disease. The discharge tubes had all to be prepared in the 
laboratory itself, and, where a few seconds exposure is required now 
[191 1], half an hour had to be sacrificed owing to our ignorance of the 
best conditions for producing the rays.' 

Schuster states that such interruptions seriously interfered with 
his experiments on the magnetic deflection of cathode rays. 
Schuster's experiences were duplicated in many physics labora- 
tories all over the world. 

Faraday lectures 

[Michael Faraday was a brilliant lecturer: his popular discourses at the 
Royal Institution were an important means of disseminating scientific 
knowledge from 1812 onwards. He studied the art of lecturing carefully; 
here are some of his aphorisms] 

One hour is long enough for anyone. 

Listeners expect reason and sense, whilst gazers only require a 
succession of words. 

The most prominent requisite of a lecturer, though perhaps not 
the most important, is a good delivery. 

The lecturer should give the audience full reason to believe that 
all his powers have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction. 

[He was highly self-critical of his own abilities. To a friend he wrote:] 

As when on some secluded branch in forest far and wide sits 
perched an owl, who, full of self-conceit and self-created wisdom, 
explains, comments, condemns, ordains and orders things not 
understood, yet full of his importance still holds forth to stocks 
and stones around— so sits and scribbles Mike. 


N rays 


Condensed from [Here is Wood's own account of what was probably the greatest scientific 

DrWood, delusion of 'our time.] 

Modern Wizard of 

WiUiamSeabrook In the late autumn of i9°3> Professor R Blondlot, head of the 
(Harcoun Brace) Department of Physics at the University of Nancy, member of 
1941. the French Academy, and widely known as an investigator, 

announced the discovery of a new ray, which he called N ray, with 
properties far transcending those of the x-rays. Reading of his 
remarkable experiments, I attempted to repeat his observations, 
but failed to confirm them after wasting a whole morning. Accord- 
ing to Blondlot, the rays were given off spontaneously by many 
metals. A piece of paper, very feebly illuminated, could be used as 
a detector, for, wonder of wonders, when the N rays fell upon the 
eye they increased its ability to see objects in a nearly dark room. 

Fuel was added by a score of other investigators. Twelve papers 
had appeared in the Comptes rendus before the year was out. 
A Charpentier, famous for his fantastic experiments on hypnotism, 
claimed that N rays were given off by muscle, nerves, and the 
brain, and his incredible claims were published in the Comptes, 
sponsored by the great d'Arsonval, France's foremost authority on 
electricity and magnetism. 

Blondlot next announced that he had constructed a spectroscope 
with aluminium lenses and a prism of the same metal, and found a 
spectrum of lines separated by dark intervals, showing that there 
were N rays of different refrangibility and wave length. He 
measured the wave lengths. Jean Becquerel claimed that N rays 
could be transmitted over a wire. By early summer Blondlot had 
published twenty papers, Charpentier twenty, and J Becquerel 
ten, all describing new properties and sources of the rays. 

Scientists in all other countries were frankly skeptical, but the 
French Academy stamped Blondlot's work with its approval by 
awarding him the Lalande prize of 20000 francs and its gold medal 
'for the discovery of the N rays.' 

In September (1904) I went to Cambridge for the meeting of the 
British Association for the Advancement of Science. After the 
meeting some of us got together for a discussion of what was to 
be done about the N rays. Professor Rubens, of Berlin, was most 
outspoken in his denunciation. He felt particularly aggrieved 
because the Kaiser had commanded him to come to Potsdam and 
demonstrate the rays. After wasting two weeks in vain attempts to 
duplicate the Frenchman's experiments, he was greatly em- 
barrassed by having to confess to the Kaiser his failure. Turning 


N rays 

to me he said, 'Professor Wood, will you not go to Nancy im- 
mediately and test the experiments that are going on there ?' 'Yes, 
yes,' said all of the Englishmen, 'that's a good idea, go ahead.' I 
suggested that Rubens go, as he was the chief victim, but he said 
that Blondlot had been most polite in answering his many letters 
asking for more detailed information, and it would not look well 
if he undertook to expose him. 'Besides,' he added, 'you are an 
American, and you Americans can do anything. . . '. 

So I visited Nancy, meeting Blondlot by appointment at his 
laboratory in the early evening. He spoke no English, and I 
elected German as our means of communication, as I wanted him 
to feel free to speak confidentially to his assistant. 

He first showed me a card on which some circles had been 
painted in luminous paint. He turned down the gas light and called 
my attention to their increased luminosity, when the N ray was 
turned on. I said I saw no change. He said that was because my 
eyes were not sensitive enough, so that proved nothing. I asked 
him if I could move an opaque lead screen in and out of the path 
of the rays while he called out the fluctuations of the screen. He 
was almost 100 per cent wrong and called out fluctuations when I 
made no movement at all, and that proved a lot, but I held my 
tongue. He then showed me the dimly lighted clock, and tried to 
convince me that he could see the hands when he held a large flat 
file just above his eyes. I asked if I could hold the file, for I had 
noticed a flat wooden ruler on his desk, and remembered that 
wood was one of the few substances that never emitted N rays. 
He agreed to this, and I felt around in the dark for the ruler and 
held it in front of his face. Oh, yes, he could see the hands per- 
fectly. This also proved something. 

But the crucial and most exciting test was now to come. Ac- 
companied by the assistant, who was by this time casting rather 
hostile glances at me, we went into the room where the spectro- 
scope with the aluminium lenses and prism was installed. In place 
of an eyepiece, this instrument had a vertical thread, painted with 
luminous paint, which could be moved along in the region where 
the N ray spectrum was supposed to be by turning a wheel having 
graduations and numerals on its rim. Blondlot took a seat in front 
of the instrument and slowly turned the wheel. The thread was 
supposed to brighten as it crossed the invisible lines of the N-ray 
spectrum. He read off the numbers on the graduated scale for a 
number of the lines, by the light of a small, darkroom red lantern. 
This experiment had convinced a number of skeptical visitors, as 


he could repeat his measurements in their presence, always getting 
the same numbers. I asked him to repeat his measurements, and 
reached over in the dark and lifted the aluminium prism from the 
spectroscope. He turned the wheel again, reading off the same 
numbers as before. I put the prism back before the lights were 
turned up, and Blondlot told his assistant that his eyes were tired. 
The assistant had evidently become suspicious, and asked Blondlot 
to let him repeat the reading for me. Before he turned down the 
light I had noticed that he placed the prism very exacdy on its 
litde round support, with two of its corners exactly on the rim of 
the metal disk. As soon as the light was lowered, I moved over 
towards the prism, with audible footsteps, but / did not touch the 
prism. The assistant commenced to turn the wheel, and suddenly 
said hurriedly to Blondlot in French, T see nothing; there is no 
spectrum. I think the American has made some derangement, .' 
Whereupon he immediately turned up the gas and went over and 
examined the prism carefully. He glared at me, but I gave no 
indication of my reactions. This ended the seance. 

Next morning I sent off a letter to Nature giving a full account of 
my findings, not, however, mentioning the double-crossing inci- 
dent at the end of the evening, and merely locating the laboratory 
as 'one in which most of the N-ray experiments had been carried 
out.' La Revue scientifique, France's weekly semipopular scientific 
journal started an inquiry, asking French scientists to express their 
opinions as to the reality of the N rays. About forty letters were 
published, only a half dozen backing Blondlot. The most scathing 
one by Le Bel said, 'What a spectacle for French science when 
one of its distinguished savants measures the position of the spec- 
trum lines, while the prism reposes in the pocket of his American 

The Academy at its annual meeting in December, when the 
prize and medal were presented, announced the award as given to 
Blondlot 'for his life's work, taken as a whole.' 

[Seabrook adds : The tragic exposure eventually led to Blondlot' s madness 
and death. He was a great man, utterly sincere, who had 'gone off the 
deep end, 'perhaps through some form of self-hypnotism. . . . What Wood 
had done, reluctantly but with scientific ruthlessness, had been the coup de 


My initiation 


Condensed from 
Journal of Jocular 
Physics vol 2 p 7 
(October 1945) 
Institute of 

The first message I got from Bohr was a telegram, announcing that 
the Easter Conference was to be postponed two days. I was then 
—in 1929— in Gottingen and, together with Heitler, had expressed 
the wish to attend that famous Conference ; we had both received 
from Klein a favourable answer, to which the aforementioned 
telegram brought the master's eleventh-hour correction. When 
we arrived in Copenhagen, Bohr informed us of the reason for the 
postponement: he had to complete ('with Klein's kind help') a 
Danish translation of some of his recent papers to be published 
as a Festskrift of Copenhagen University; he told us all about this 
venerable Festskrift tradition and added : 'It would have been a 
catastrophe if that work had not been ready in time !' This struck 
me as a hyperbolic way of stating the matter. How litde I imagined 
at that moment the tragedy hidden behind this seemingly inno- 
cuous procedure of putting the finishing touch to a paper ! How 
little I knew that it was my destiny to play a part in a whole lot 
of such tragedies ! 

My sole excuse for the failure to grasp the earnestness of this 
paper-writing subject is that I was by no means an exception in 
that respect. In fact, as experience taught me since, people are on 
the whole distressingly unimaginative on that point. Take, for 
instance, the case of the Faraday Lecture. Bohr arrived in London 
for the Faraday celebration with a manuscript of his lecture, which 
he described as 'practically finished.' There were just a few pages 
lacking. The plan was to seek the required isolation in the roman- 
tic environment of some old English inn, and in a week's time, 
'with Rosenfeld's kind help', (he explained to Mr Carr, the secre- 
tary of the Chemical Society) the thing would be definitively dis- 
posed of. Mr Carr was delighted. After a week's hard labour in a 
rather crowded and thoroughly unromantic hotel, in which we 
had to wage a regular war of nerves against an irascible school- 
mistress for the possession of the parlour, the ten odd lacking 
pages had actually been written. We had furthermore gained the 
insight that a great improvement could be obtained by the mere 
addition of some twenty more pages. Bohr quite warmed up at 
this idea, which (he persuaded me) brought us really a good deal 
nearer to the end. I was accordingly dispatched to Mr Carr to 
report on the new development. Well, Mr Carr did not at all 
cheer the prospect; he was just annoyed; he even made no effort 
to conceal his annoyance. When I alluded to our having worked 
the whole week without respite, I am sorry to say he looked 


decidedly incredulous. I was quite downhearted when I left him. 
Fortunately, I had just then an appointment with Delbriick, whom 
I found in company of one of his innumerable lady-friends. He 
was a man of feeling and understanding; he comforted me like the 
true friend he was. 

But to return to the scene on the platform in Copenhagen station. 
What impressed me most about Bohr at this first meeting, was the 
benevolence radiating from his whole being. There was a paternal 
air about him, which was enhanced by the presence of some of his 
sons. These sons of Bohr's were a great matter of speculation to 
me. When I again saw Bohr at the Institute the next morning, 
there were also a few sons around him. Different ones, I thought; 
he must have a host of them. On the afternoon of the same day, 
however, I was bewildered at the sight of still another son at his 
side. He seemed to stamp them from the ground or draw them 
forth from his sleeve, like a conjurer. At length, however, I 
learned to distinguish the sons from one another and I found out 
that there was only a finite number of them after all. 

I don't know how the Athenian delegates for oracle consultation 
felt on their return from Delos. But I imagine their feelings must 
have been akin to mine after I had listened to Bohr's introductory 
lecture at the Conference. He had begun with a few general con- 
siderations calculated, no doubt, to convey to the audience that 
peculiar sensation of having the ground suddenly removed from 
under their feet, which is so effective in promoting receptiveness 
for complementary thinking. This preliminary result being readily 
achieved, he had eagerly hastened to his main subject and stunned 
us all (except Pauli) with the non-observability of the electron 
spin. I spent the afternoon with Heitler pondering on the scanty 
fragments of the hidden wisdom which we had been able to jot 
down in our note books. Towards the evening we felt the need for 
some fortification and proceeded to the Strog. 

The following evening we spent at the cinema, together with 
some others. Picture theatres have always been institutions of high 
educational value to young theoretical physicists. So it turned out 
this time too. There it was that Casimir started his important cal- 
culation of the magnetic field exerted by an atomic Dirac electron 
on the nucleus of the atom. He had to work under very trying 
circumstances. For as soon as any part of the show started, the 
lights went out, and poor Casimir had to wait until the lovers had 
safely got over their troubles and married and all before he could 


My initiation 

resume his calculations. He did not lose a second either: every 
time the lights went up, they invariably disclosed our friend bent 
over odd bits of paper and feverishly filling them with intricate 
formulae. The way in which he made the best of a desperate 
situation was truly admirable. It was inspiring to watch him. 

On the last day of the Conference I experienced the climax of 
my Copenhagen initiation. It came about rather unexpectedly in 
the following way. At the meeting that morning one of the most 
distinguished guests had developed some views about the vexed 
question of the 'cut' between system and observer, which seemed 
to me rather erroneous. Bohr, however, had only opposed them 
feebly (as I thought); in his rather confused speech, the phrase 
'very interesting' recurred insistently; and finally, turning to the 
speaker, he had concluded by expressing the conviction that 'we 
agree much more than you think.' I was much worried by this 
extraordinary attitude, the more so as the highbrow bench seemed 
to find it all right. I therefore ventured to explain my doubts 
straight away to Bohr. I began cautiously to state that the speaker's 
argument did not seem to me quite justified. 'Oh,' said Bohr 
quickly, 'it is pure nonsense !' So I knew I had been led astray 
by a mere matter of terminology. 

But now the unexpected happened. Bohr summoned me to a 
little room, in the middle of which stood a rather long table. He 
manoeuvred me towards that table and as soon as I stood leaning 
against it, he began to describe around it, at a rather lively pace, a 
keplerian ellipse of large eccentricity, of which the place where I 
was standing was a focus. All the time, he was talking in a soft 
low voice, explaining to me the broad oudines of his philosophy. 
He walked with bent head and knit brows; from time to time, he 
looked up at me and underlined some important point by a sober 
gesture. As he spoke, the words and sentences which I had read 
before in his papers suddenly took life and became loaded with 
meaning. It was one of the few solemn moments that count in an 
existence, the revelation of a world of dazzling thought, truly an 

It is generally recognized that no initiation can be properly 
accomplished without being combined with a painful experience 
of some sort. In that particular also my initiation left nothing to be 
desired. For since I had to strain my hearing to the utmost to 
catch the master's words, I was compelled to execute a continuous 
rotation at the same rate as that of his orbital motion. The true 
purpose of the ceremony, however, did not occur to me until 


Bohr ended by emphasizing that you can't even catch a glimpse of 
complementarity if you don't feel completely dizzy. When I 
heard that, I realized everything and I could only pay him a silent 
homage of thankfulness and admiration for such touching solici- 

Frank Jewett 


From Science Frank Jewett, late president and chairman of Bell Telephone 
(19° *}) 594 8 Laboratories, was president of the National Academy of Sciences 
during World War II. One evening at the old Cosmos Club, he 
regaled a small group of us with an autobiographical note which 
had a flavour of biophysics. 

During his childhood in Pasadena he and some of his friends, 
aged about ten, became interested not only in bird-watching, but 
also in studying the habits and life histories of birds. Jewett chose 
hummingbirds for his study, many species of which congregated 
in the Pasadena area during the winter months. With the onset of 
migration, each species sorted itself out from the others and took off 
for its summer habitat. One fact of particular interest to him was 
the cleanliness of the hummingbird's nest as compared with that 
of any other kind of bird. Careful observation disclosed the rea- 
son. The earliest training given a chick by the mother humming- 
bird was 'toilet training' of sorts. It consisted of teaching the chick, 
immediately upon emergence from its shell, to elevate its posterior 
above the edge of the nest when defecating. 

Jewett's interest in physics suggested the possibility of a simple 
experiment based on this observation. He measured the height of 
the nest above the ground, and the horizontal distance of the drop- 
pings from the vertical to the nest. These data enabled him to de- 
termine the initial velocity, assuming horizontal propulsion. It 
proved astounding that a hummingbird chick, weighing only a 
few grams, could muster such propulsive energy. Jewett specu- 
lated on the validity of extrapolating from the velocity-weight re- 
lation for a few grams of body weight to velocities for greater 
body weights, say up to 75 kilograms. The reader's imagination 
can readily supply the discussion about these speculations. 


Inertia of a broomstick 

From Popular [ The splendid gentleman in the picture opposite is performing an experiment 
Scientific Recrea- popular a century ago. Instructions are:] 
tions in Natural r r J 6 J 

Philosophy by ^ a needle is fixed at each end of the broomstick, and these needles 
(London 'ward"' are ma( 3e t0 rest on two glasses, placed on chairs; the needles 
Lock) 1881. alone must be in contact with the glasses. If the broomstick is then 
struck violently with another stout stick, the former will be 
broken, but the glasses will remain intact. The experiment answers 
all the better the more energetic the action. It is explained by the 
resistance of inertia in the broomstick. The shock suddenly given, 
the impulse has not time to pass on from the particles directly 
affected to the adjacent particles; the former separate before the 
movement can be transmitted to the glasses serving as supports. 

I believe that I am not overstating the truth when I say that half 
the time occupied by clerks and draftsmen in engineers' and sur- 
veyors' offices ... is work entailed upon them by the present 
farrago of weights and measures. 

Lord Kelvin 

Letter to Physics Once again (F Bulos et al, Phys. Rev. Letters 13, 486 (1964)) the 
rw^y, November ener gy physicists have presented us with a paper that has 

more authors (27) than paragraphs (12). Can high energy really 

be so different ? 

Robert A Myers 

Oh Langley devised the bolometer: 

It's really a kind of thermometer 

Which measures the heat 

From a polar bear's feet 

At a distance of half a kilometre. 

See the stars at home with Spitz planetarium, $14.95 • • • reflects 
all the major constellations of the Western Hemisphere on the 
ceiling of a darkened room . . . 



Pneumatic experiment 

{Experiments to determine the effects of inhaling different gases were 
important in the early years of the nineteenth century as new gases were 
discovered. On March 22, 1800 Lady Holland went to the Royal 
Institution for a lecture-demonstration. She wrote:] 

This Institution of Rumford's furnishes ridiculous stories. The 
other day they tried the effect of the gas, so poetically described 
by Beddoes; it exhilarates the spirits, distends the machine. The 
first subject was a corpulent middle-aged gendeman, who, after 
inhaling a sufficient dose, was requested to describe to the com- 
pany his sensations; 'Why, I only feel stupid'. This intelligence 
was received amidst a burst of applause, most probably not for the 
novelty of the information. Sir Coxe Hippisley was the next who 
submitted to the operation, but the effect upon him was so animat- 
ing that the ladies tittered, held up their hands, and declared them- 
selves satisfied. 

[The demonstrator administering the nitrous oxide is probably Thomas 
Young, professor of natural philosophy and chemistry, with his assistant 
Humphry Davy at his side. Rumford stands on the right, Isaac D'Israeli 
sits at the far right. Hippisley and Rumford were among the founders of 
the Royal Institution. Note the smouldering candle and tobacco pipe ready 
for igniting by being put in the jar of oxygen.] 

The high standard of education in Scotland 


We were staying in Ballater, a small town on Deeside in Scotland. 
In the town was a tiny shop which sold tourist attractions and 
picture postcards, and in its minute window was a very fine 
specimen of smoky quartz mineral. Buying a postcard, I said to 
the proprietor, 'That's a fine group of smoky quartz in your 
window' and had this reply in very broad Scotch: 

'That's no smoky quartz, that's topaz. It's a crystal. You can 
tell crystals by the angles between their faces. If you're interested 
I'll lend you a book on the subject.' 

I knew enough (crystals being rather in my line) to be sure it 
was smoky quartz, and on return to base looked up a book on 
Mineralogy which said 'Smoky Quartz, also known as Cairngorm, 
is called Topaz in Scotland'. 

Cartoon by 
James Gillrr<y, 


Theoretical zipperdynamics 

HARRY J ZIPKIN Department of Unclear Phy^ipics, 
The Wei^ipmann In^iptute 

From Journal of INTRODUCTION 

f Resul!s"^,6(i9$6). The fundamental principles of zipper operation were never well 
understood before the discovery of the quantum theory [1]. Now 
that the role of quantum effects in zippers has been convincingly 
demonstrated [2], it can be concluded that the present state of 
our knowledge of zipper operation is approximately equal to 
zero. Note that because of the quantum nature of the problem, 
one cannot say that the present state of knowledge is exactly 
equal to zero. There exist certain typically quantum-mechanical 
zero-point fluctuations; thus our understanding of the zipper 
can vary from time to time. The root mean square average of 
our understanding, however, remains of the order of h. 


The problem which baffled all the classical investigators was that 
of 'zipperbewegung' [3], or how a zipper moves from one position 
to the next. It was only after the principle of complementarity 
was applied by Niels Bohr [4], that the essentially quantum- 
theoretical nature of the problem was realized. Bohr showed that 
each zipper position represented a quantum state, and that the 
motion of the zipper from one position to the next was a quan- 
tum jump which could not be described in classical terms, and 
whose details could never be determined by experiment. The 
zipper just jumps from one state to the next, and it is meaning- 
less to ask how it does this. One can only make statistical pre- 
dictions of zipperbewegung. 

The unobservability of zipperbewegung is due, as in most 
quantum-phenomena, to the impossibility of elimination of the 
interaction between the observer and the apparatus. This was 
seriously questioned by Einstein who, in a celebrated controversy 
with Bohr, proposed a series of experiments to observe zipper- 
bewegung. Bohr was proved correct in all cases ; in any attempt 
to examine a zipper carefully, the interaction with the observer 
was so strong that the zipper was completely incapacitated [5]. 


A zipper is a quantum-mechanical system having a series of 
equally spaced levels or states. Although most zippers in actual 
use have only a finite number of states, the semi-infinite zipper 
is of considerable theoretical interest, since it is more easily 
treated theoretically than is the finite case. This was first done by 
Schroedzipper [6] who pointed out that the semi-infinite series of 


equally spaced levels was also found in the Harmonic Oscillator 
discovered by Talmi [7]. Schroedzipper transformed the zipper 
problem to the oscillator case by use of a Folded - Woodhouse 
Canonical Transformation. He was then able to calculate transi- 
tion probabilities, level spacings, branching ratios, seniorities, 
juniorities, etc. Extensive tables of the associated Racah coeffi- 
cients have recently been computed by Rose, Bead and Horn [8]. 

Numerous attempts to verify this theory by experiment have 
been undertaken, but all have been unsuccessful. The reason for 
the inevitability of such failure has been recently proved in the 
celebrated Weisgal-Eshkol theorem [9], which shows that the 
construction of a semi-infinite zipper requires a semi-infinite 
budget, and that this is out of the question even at the Weizip- 
mann Inziptute. 

Attempts to extend the treatment of the semi-infinite zipper to 
the finite case have all failed, since the difference between a finite 
and a semi-infinite zipper is infinite, and cannot be treated as a 
small perturbation. However, as in other cases, this has not pre- 
vented the publishing of a large number of papers giving pertur- 
bation results to the first order (no one publishes the higher 
order calculations since they all diverge). Following the success 
of M G Mayer [10] who added spin-orbit coupling to the har- 
monic oscillator, the same was tried for the zipper, but has 
failed completely. This illustrates the fundamental difference 
between zippers and nuclei and indicates that there is little hope 
for the exploitation of zipperic energy to produce useful power. 
There are, however, great hopes for the exploitation of zipperic 
energy to produce useless research. 


The problem of the finite zipper is best treated directly, without 
reference to the infinite case. One must first write the Schroed- 
zipper equation for the system : 

H(Z) = -ih dZ/df. 

The solution of this equation is left as an exercise for the 
reader. From the result all desired observable information can 
be calculated. 

The most interesting case of the finite zipper is that in which 
there are perturbations. For this case the Schroedzipper equa- 
tion becomes : 

(H + H')Z = - ih dZ/d/. 


Theoretical ^ipperdynamics 

Because of the perturbation term H', the original states of the 
unperturbed zipper are no longer eigenstates of the system. The 
new eigenstates, characteristic of a perturbed zipper, are mix- 
tures of the unperturbed states. This means, roughly, that 
because of the perturbation the zipper is in a state somewhere in 
between its ordinary states. 

A theoretical possibility of such perturbation was recently 
voiced by a lady who was considering buying a pair of trousers 
for her husband. She was offered a zippered type but declined 
the offer. Her uncertainty principle was expressed in the follow- 
ing words: 'I don't think such trousers would be good for my 
husband. Last time I bought him a zippered sweater, his tie was 
highly disturbed by the zipper perturbation'. 


1 H Quantum 'A New Theory of Zipper Operation which is also incidentally appli- 
cable to such minor Problems as Black Body Radiation, Atomic Spectroscopy, Chemical 
Binding and Liquid Helium'. ZIP 7, 432 (1922) 

2 H Eisenzip 'The Uncertainty Principle in Zipper Operation', Zipschrift fur Phy&p, 
2» 54 (1923) 

3 I Newton, M Faraday, C Maxwell, L Euler, L Rayleigh, and J W Gibbs, 
'Die Zipperbewegung' (unpublished) 

4 N Bohr 'Lecture on Complementarity in Zippers', Geneva Conference, 'Zippers for 
Peace' (1924) 

5 P R Zipsel and N Bohm Einstein Memorial Lecture. Haifa Technion (1956) 

6 E Schroedzipper 'What is a Zipper', Dublin (1950) 

7 E Talmi, Helv. Phys. Acta, 1, 1 (1901) 

8 M E Rose, A Bead, and Sh Horn (to be published) 

9 M Weisgal and L Eshkol 'Zippeconomics' Ann. Rept. Weiypmann In^iptute 

10 Metro G Mayer 'Enrichment by the Monte Carlo Method: Rotational States with 
Magic Numbers', Gamblionics, 3, 56 (1956) 

ihkw^h mtjjirotdto >bfc^i«j^j< >t^yi>jj< \*is&fr4t**i±*i[r[(£4i4*^*pfpdjd4i±^*r;--'-- •"■■-wam* M^ffm* 

In a summary of lectures on electrodynamics delivered at Moscow 
University by A A Blasov the following sentence occurred : 'The 
purpose of the present course is the deepening and development 
of difficulties underlying contemporary theory . . .'. 

California constantly emits neutrons, which strike other materials 
and make them radioactive— Birmingham {Ala) News 

[And it does it in the most blatant sort of way.] 


Atomic medicine 


From California It can be said that the new field of atomic medicine actually began 
beT'tw^T*™! at * e University of California, where artificial radioactivity first 
became available for biological and medical research. Watching 
all the young men working around the cyclotron bombarding new 
targets and measuring the radiations with Geiger counters and 
Wilson cloud chambers, I was soon infected with the excitement 
of the early experiments. Very little was known of the biological 
effects of the neutron rays produced by the cyclotron, and this 
seemed an important place to start work. 

For the neutron ray exposures in Berkeley we made a small 
metal cylinder to house a rat so that it could be placed close to the 
cyclotron. After placing the rat in position, we asked the crew to 
start the cyclotron and then turn it off again after the first two 
minutes. This 'two-minute' exposure was arbitrary, since we had 
no basis for calculating how great a dose would produce an 
observable radiation effect on the animal. After the two minutes 
had passed, we crawled into the small space between the dees of 
the 37-inch cyclotron, opened the cylinder, and found the rat was 
dead. Everyone crowded around to look at the rat, and a healthy 
respect for nuclear radiations was born. Now, of course, radiation 
protection measures are an integral part of all atomic energy 
research programs, but I think this incident of our first rat played 
a large part in the excellent safety record at the University. In 
fact, we have had no radiation cataracts among the early cyclo- 
tron workers. We discovered later that the rat's death had resulted 
from asphyxiation rather than radiation. But since our failure to 
aerate the rat chamber adequately had brought about such a 
salutory effect on the crew, the post-mortem report was not widely 

The physicists were so busy and excited about their work they 
did not like to allow us exposure time for the animal experiments 
and thought us nuisances. One day as I walked by the cyclotron, a 
pair of pliers thoughtlessly left in my pocket were torn free by the 
intense magnetic field and flew into the dees of the vacuum 
chamber of the cyclotron, puttingit out of operation for three days. 
We were even less popular after this incident. 

Truth comes out of error more easily than out of confusion. 



100 authors against Einstein 

[A quarter of a century after Einstein published his work on Relativity, a 
book was published in Germany called '100 Authors against Einstein 
which sought to show that Einstein must be wrong because so many 
opinions were ranged against him. The book was reviewed by von Brunn, 
and his article is itself an entertaining polemic. Here are some extracts.] 

It is not really surprising that many people who have experienced 
the development of the theory of Relativity only in its most superfi- 
cial forms have received an adverse impression of it. For without 
any fault on the part of the creator of the theory, major tactical 
errors have been committed by overzealous but not uniformly 
comprehending proponents of it. The experiments of leaving the 
verdict on the theories to the vox populi have, thank God, been 
eventually checked by sensible advocates of the new concept. 
And the tactic practised by certain fanatical scientific supporters 
of Einstein's theory, of cutting discussion of it short by threatening 
to discredit even the most moderate and reasonable criticism, as 
obviously resulting from stupidity and malice— this too has by 
now been abandoned. But even apart from these excesses of the 
'Einstein craze' which now are a thing of the past, serious and 
respectable grounds for certain misgivings with regard to Rela- 
tivity Theory do still remain. Even Special Relativity Theory 
demands certain 'sacrifices of intellect'— in particular the relin- 
quishment of the strict determinability of simultaneity (note that 
the concept of simultaneity still remains). For many philosophers 
this is of course tantamount to an irreparable crime against the 
eternal infallibility of Kant, because they do not understand the 
inevitability of Einstein's intentions. 

If the book under review had arisen solely from fears, justified 
in principle although very exaggerated, of an 'evaporation of the 
concept of reality' in modern science, then one would be prepared 
to tolerate it. But an author who, without sufficient independent 
personal judgement, collects other people's criticisms of a scienti- 
fic theory for a tendentious purpose must, quite apart from the 
moral appraisement of his aim, accept the consequences and his 
action be dismissed as pamphleteering. But even the most toler- 
ant critic will not be able to find any extenuating circumstances 
for this 'book by a hundred authors', for what does this council of 
judges consist of? Ninety per cent of the authors are dyed-in-the- 
wool Kantians who have not a clue about the crisis of modern 
physicists with regard to the theory of cognition, a crisis brought 
about by the failure of all attempts to prove absolute motion using 
optical means and by the proportionality of inertial and gravita- 

From Die 
schaften II, 254-6 


tional mass. Their rantings and ravings therefore carry no weight. 
What does one do— to quote but a few statements which at least 
make sense— with such pearls of wisdom as: 

Einsteinism maintains the equivalence of acceleration and gravitation. 
In other words, it preaches that an effect (acceleration) is equivalent to 
its cause (gravitation). This thesis is a blatant absurdity (Dr A Reuter- 


The theory of Einstein is for me a functional deformation of reality. 
His framework of reference, variable space and time coordinates, in- 
variant velocity of light (in spite of variable limiting value), is not to my 
taste {Professor Strehl). 

And those are not the worst examples. It is impossible in a re- 
view to examine these 'arguments', which are repeated over and 
over again, in detail. And so let us be brief : As zero when multi- 
plied by any finite number always gives zero, so the compilers 
could just as well have included iooo such authors instead of 100 
without the essence of their statements ever giving anything else 
but zero. They should accept that Relativity Theory cannot be 
condemned on the basis of an accumulation of 'judgements' by 
authors who have a certain command of the phraseology of Kant's 
critical philosophy but not the faintest idea of his spirit, just as the 
validity of Einstein's theories cannot be proved by majority 
resolutions of ladies' coffee parties. 

A few sensible critics from the world of philosophy and physics 
have allowed themselves to be inserted between 'authors' of the 
latter type, and relativist scientists should not and in fact do not 
consider it beneath their dignity to cross swords with these. 
(Einstein himself, of course, as a pure researcher, is not fond of 
such scientific disputations !) But even here the fact that an oppo- 
nent has a famous name unfortunately does not mean that he can 
be taken seriously. When one of these 'famous' men, for instance, 
is known to have only recently declared 'empirical astrology' 
(sic !) to be a science in the truest sense of the word, no physical 
scientist can be expected to embark upon a discussion about the 
justification of the conclusions of Relativity Theory with someone 
who does not even know the difference between science and 
dilettantism. And in fact it is he who writes sentences like : 

In a quite impermissible manner, operations are carried out to prove 
that motion, which is assumed to be only relative, has an absolute real 
effect (shortening of scale, etc). 


ioo authors against Einstein 

Pythian oracles, but not arguments against the crystal-clear logic 
of Einstein. 

And so nothing remains of the criticism of the 'ioo authors' 
except a few significant objections by philosophers and physicists 
of keen judgement; Relativity Theory would naturally have to 
come to terms with these objections, had it not already success- 
fully done so. And when for instance in carefully weighed sen- 
tences Professor Hartog, of Amsterdam, warns against extending 
'relativization' to the workings of Nature as an inner experience 
or even to the field of ethical values, the creator of the Theory of 
Relativity would be the first to reject such an improper interpre- 
tation of his thought out of hand ; even this most estimable contri- 
bution is fighting shadows. Taken as a whole the book is a product 
of such lamentable impotence that this regression into the 16th 
and 17th centuries can only be marvelled at and deplored. Only in 
politics does one meet such a depressing level; perhaps ideological 
antipathies are the only motive for this pamphlet. 

Finally we must protest about the fact that in the bibliography 
authors are listed as being opponents of the Relativity Theory who 
have perhaps at some stage expressed certain misgivings about 
it, but who on the whole are definite adherents (Bottlinger, Poin- 
care, Prey)! One can only hope that German science is not 
shown up by such depressing rubbish again. 

i k ^ ^l ftlH ^^ {^ALU+i^fa JJl ^■ ^rQ. i i l »> ^w ^J, t l A Oprp Ul >ttri jW> /i< > ^ «ji*ifr^t*, 

From La Theorie 
da rayonnement et 
les quanta (Solvay 
edited by Lange- 
vin and de 
Broglie (Paris 
1912) p 77. 

Ultraviolet catastrophe 

[At the Solvay Conference of 1912, the subject of discussion was Radia- 
tion and Quanta, fames feans tried to explain the ultraviolet catastrophe 
and the specific heat of solids in classical terms. He proposed a model in 
which each 'heat capacity' acted like a reservoir connected to others by a 
system of tubes and leaks. Poincare's contribution to the discussion was 

It is obvious that by giving suitable dimensions to the communicat- 
ing tubes between his reservoirs and giving suitable values to the 
leaks, Jeans can account for any experimental results whatever. 
But this is not the role of physical theories. They should not 
introduce as many arbitrary constants as there are phenomena to 
be explained ; they should establish connections between different 
experimental facts, and above all they should allow predictions 
to be made. 


Flatland: a romance of many dimensions 

From Nature [An anonymous letter entitled 'Euclid, Newton, and Einstein, 'published 

February 12, i n Nature on February 12, 1920, called attention to a little book by 
Edwin Abbott Abbott {1838-1926), best known for his scholarly 
Shakespearian Grammar, his life of Francis Bacon and a number of 
theological discussions^ 

Some thirty or more years ago, a little jeu d'esprit was written by 
Dr Edwin Abbott, entitled 'Flatland.' At the time of its publication 
it did not attract as much attention as it deserved. Dr Abbott 
pictures intelligent beings whose whole experience is confined to 
a plane, or other space of two dimensions, who have no faculties 
by which they can become conscious of anything outside that 
space and no means of moving off the surface on which they live. 
He then asks the reader, who has the consciousness of the third 
dimension, to imagine a sphere descending upon the plane of 
Flatland and passing through it. How will the inhabitants regard 
this phenomenon ? They will not see the approaching sphere and 
will have no conception of its solidity. They will only be conscious 
of the circle in which it cuts their plane. This circle, at first a 
point, will gradually increase in diameter, driving the inhabitants 
of Flatland outwards from its circumference, and this will go on 
until half the sphere has passed through the plane, when the circle 
will gradually contract to a point and then vanish, leaving the 
Flatlanders in undisturbed possession of their country. 

Their experience will be that of a circular obstacle gradually 
expanding or growing, and then contracting, and they will attribute 
to growth in time what the external observer in three dimensions 
assigns to motion in the third dimension, through three-dimensional 
space. Assume the past and future of the universe to be all depicted 
in four-dimensional space and visible to any being who has consci- 
ousness of the fourth dimension. If there is motion of our three- 
dimensional space relative to the fourth dimension, all the changes 
we experience and assign to the flow of time will be due simply to 
this movement, the whole of the future as well as the past always 
existing in the fourth dimension. 

[In a vision the narrator, a native of Flatland, has been indoctrinated by 
Sphere to carry the Gospel of Three Dimensions to his blind benighted 
countrymen in Flatland^ 

I. 'Pardon me, O Thou Whom I must no longer address as the 
Perfection of all Beauty; but let me beg thee to vouchsafe thy 
servant a sight of thine interior.' 
Sphere. 'My what ?' 

From Edwin A 
Abbott, Flatland: 
A Romance of 
Many Dimensions 
(New York: 
Barnes and Noble) 


Flatland: a romance of many dimensions 

I. 'Thine interior : thy stomach, thy intestines.' 
Sphere. 'Whence this ill-timed impertinent request ? . . .' 
/. 'But my Lord has shewn me the intestines of all my countrymen 
in the Land of Two Dimensions by taking me with him into the 
Land of Three. What therefore more easy than now to take his 
servant on a second journey into the blessed region of the Fourth 
Dimension, where I shall look down with him once more upon 
this land of Three Dimensions, and see the inside of every three- 
dimensional house, the secrets of the solid earth, the treasures of 
the mines in Spaceland, and the intestines of every solid living 
creature, even of the noble and adorable Spheres'. 
Sphere. 'But where is this land of Four Dimensions ?' 
/. 'I know not: but doubtless my Teacher knows'. 
Sphere. 'Not I. There is no such land. The very idea of it is utterly 
inconceivable. . . . Men are divided in opinion as to the facts. 
And even granting the facts, they explain them in different ways. 
And in any case, however great may be the number of different 
explanations, no one has adopted or suggested the theory of a 
Fourth Dimension. Therefore, pray have done with this trifling, 
and let us return to business.' 

From Physicists 
continue to laugh 
MIR Publishing 
House, Moscow 
1968. Translated 
from the Russian 
by Mrs Lorraine 
T KapitanofF. 

Schools of physics 

When Niels Bohr visited the Physics Institute of the Academy of 
Sciences of the USSR, to the question of how he had succeeded 
in creating a first-rate school of physicists he replied : 'Presumably 
because I was never embarrassed to confess to my students that 
I am a fool . . .'. 

On a later occasion, when E M Lifschitz read out this sentence 
from a translation of the speech it emerged in the following form: 
'Presumably because I was never embarrassed to declare to my 
students that they are fools . . .'. 

This sentence caused an animated reaction in the auditorium, 
then Lifschitz, looking at the text again, corrected himself and 
apologized for his accidental slip of the tongue. However, P L 
Kapitsa who had been sitting in the hall very thoughtfully noted 
that this was not an accidental slip of the tongue. It accurately 
expressed the principal difference between the schools of Bohr 
and of Landau to which E M Lifschitz belonged. 



(A R lang) 


(a R lang) 

How a theoretical physicist works 


From Paths into 
the Unknown No 2. 
Printed in 
Physicists continue 
to laugh (Moscow: 
MIR Publishing 
House) 1968. 
Translated from 
the Russian by 
Mrs Lorraine T 

I have always thought— although it was dangerous to express 
these thoughts aloud— that the theoretician has no role to play in 
physics. To say this in front of theoreticians is dangerous. They 
are convinced that experiments are needed only to verify the 
results of their theoretical calculations even though in reality every- 
thing is the other way around : laws are established experimentally 
and only then do theoreticians explain them. 

But, as is well known, they can explain any result. 

On one occasion we had completed an important experiment on 
the determination of the relationship between two physical quan- 
tities A and B. I rushed to the telephone and called a famous 
theoretician who was occupied with the same problem. 

'Volodya ! We have finished. A has turned out to be larger than 

'This is completely understandable. You didn't even have to 
make your experiment. A is larger than B for the following 
reasons. . . .' 

'Oh no ! Did I really say that A was larger than B ? I made a 
slip— it is B which is larger than A !' 

'Then this is even more understandable. Here is why. . . .' * 

Unsuccessful experimenters usually become theoreticians. They 
notice even while they are students that if they simply remain for 
5-10 minutes near any apparatus without even touching it, it is 
only fit for carrying straight to the dump. This follows them for 
their whole life. Once after a seminar, the famous German theore- 
tician Sommerfeld said to his listeners 'And now let us take a look 
at how this apparatus, built on the principle we have worked out, 
operates.' The theoreticians trickled in single file after Sommer- 
feld into the laboratory, took off their spectacles and the know- 
ledgable ones stared at the apparatus. Sommerfeld triumphantly 
turned on the switch ... the apparatus burned up. 

In the work of all theoreticians there is one common trait— they 
work differently. Don't get the idea that I want to say something 
good about their work ; nothing could be further from my thoughts. 
Classical theoreticians worked with antiquated methods. They 
began work in flocks then dispersed into solitude along by-ways 
and paths and for hours, days, months gazed at everything that 

* A story is told about la I Frenkel. It is said that in the Physical Theoretical 
Institute in the 30's, a certain experimenter caught up with him in a corridor and 
showed him a curve obtained in an experiment. After a minute's thought la I gave 
an explanation for the form of this curve. However it was explained that the 
curve had accidentally been turned upside down. The curve was put into place 
and having thought it over he explained this behaviour too. 


How a theoretical physicist works 

met their eyes. A little sparrow chirped— they looked at the little 
sparrow; a fish splashed in the river, they lay down on their 
stomachs and watched the fish's path. Such a method was very 
pleasing to them because all theoreticians are terrible trifiers but 
conceal it carefully. Call yourself a theoretician, and idleness be- 
comes a strenuous contemplation of themes. You might think that 
this is not really so. You might believe for example that Newton 
was specially sitting under a tree and was awaiting the time when 
the apple would fall on him in order to discover the law of uni- 
versal gravity. Not at all. He was simply shirking work. I am not 
saying that it was a bit ungentlemanly to discover the law thanks 
to an apple, but to claim the whole credit for himself was. 

But in our times such a method of work is acknowledged as 
hopelessly antiquated. Now theoreticians prefer to begin working 
from the end. And this began with Einstein. 

At the end of the 19th century the American physicist Michelson 
established experimentally (experimentally note), that it is im- 
possible to catch a light ray. No matter how fast you ran after the 
ray it would always escape from you with a velocity of three 
hundred thousand kilometres per second. 

Having rolled up his sleeves the theoretical physicist set to 
work: he placed an easy chair under the night sky and fixed an 
unblinking gaze on the shining stars. No matter how much he 
looked he was unable to give a sensible explanation of Michelson's 
experiment. But Einstein began from the end: he assumed that 
light possesses such a property and that was that. Theoreticians 
thought a little— some for ten years, others for twenty years, for 
as long as necessary, and then said : 'Brilliant !' 

Whatever it was like previously, we see now that clear, direct 
and comprehensible experimental facts underlie theoretical work. 
Even in the midst of a piece of work, completely swamped and 
overshadowed with arguments and mathematical formulas, any 
theoretician can at once fish out of the sea of mathematics those 
conclusions which he intended to obtain from the very beginning. 
But it is by far the best if it is impossible to prove these conclusions 

In general, theoreticians adore examining effects which are un- 
observable in principle. For example, Dirac proposed that a uni- 
form sea of electrons exists with negative energy which cannot 
be observed. But if one fishes out one electron from this sea, then 
a hole shows up in its place which we assume to be a positively 
charged electron— a positron. 


Similar ideas were not new to Dirac as shown by one story which 
is still current at Cambridge. Dirac while still a student attended a 
mathematical congress where the following problem was set among 
others. The precise text of it is not available so I will paraphrase it. 

Three fishermen were fishing on a secluded island. The fish 
briskly gobbled the bait; the fishermen were so absorbed that they 
did not notice that night had come and did not realise till too late 
what a mountain of fish they had hooked. So they had to spend 
the night on the island. Two fishermen quickly fell asleep, each 
nestled down under his boat, but the third had insomnia and 
decided to go home. He did not waken his comrades but divided 
all the fish into three parts. There proved to be one extra fish. After 
a moment's thought he threw it into the water, took his share and 
went home. 

In the middle of the night the second fisherman woke up. He 
did not know that the first fisherman had already left and also 
divided all the fish into three and, as you might anticipate, there 
was one fish left over. This fisherman was not distinguished for his 
originality and he threw the fish in a little farther from the shore 
and with his share sat down in the boat. The third fisherman awoke 
toward morning. Not having washed and not having noticed that 
his comrades were no longer there he hastened to divide the fish. 
He divided them into three equal parts, threw the one extra fish 
into the water, took his share and that was that. 

The problem was, to determine the least number of fish that the 
fishermen could have had. 

Dirac proposed the following solution: there were (—2) fishes. 
After the first fisherman carried out the antisocial action of throw- 
ing one fish into the water there were (— 2) — 1 = —3. Then he 
went, carrying in his bag (—1) fish, and there were (—3) — (— 1) 
= — 2 fishes left behind. The second and third fishermen simply 
repeated the bad action of their comrade. 

I could tell many other stories about theoreticians and their 
work, but they have told me that one theoretician is writing a 
story under the title 'How Experimental Physicists Work.' That, 
of course, will be presented upside down. He says that theoreti- 
cians predict all laws, and the experimenters merely confirm them. 
So I will hasten to conclude, only I don't know how to sign my 
name. I dare not use my real last name ; how would I ever work 
afterwards ? I could never discuss anything with a single theore- 
tician. I will sign myself thus; 

A well-meaning experimenter. 


The art of finding the right graph paper 
to get a straight line 


Condensed from 
Journal of 
Results, 12 
no 3 (1964). 

As any fool can plainly see, a straight line is the shortest distance 
between two points. If, as is frequently the case, point A is where 
you are and point B is research money, it is most important to see 
to it that the line is as straight as possible. Besides, it looks more 
scientific. That is why graph paper was invented. 

The first invention was simple graph paper, which popularized 
the straight line (figure 1). But people who had been working the 
constantiy accelerating or decelerating paper had to switch to log 
paper (figure 2). If both coordinates were logarithmic, log-log 
paper was necessary (figure 3). 











Or, if you had a really galloping variable on your hands, double 
log-log paper was the thing. And so on for all combinations and 
permutations of the above (figure 4). 








For the statistician, there is always probability paper, which 
will turn a normal ogive into a straight line or a normal curve into 






a tent. It is especially popular with statisticians, since it makes their 
work look precise (figure 5). 

Sometimes correlation coefficient scattergrams come out at o-oo 
with a distribution shaped like a matzo ball (figure 6k). But using 
'correlation paper' Pearson r's of any desirable degree of magni- 
tude can be obtained (figure 6B). Naturally, negative correlation 
paper is available; it simply points the diagram the other way. 

e 0 • 

• • o „ 

*»0 ■'' 

* • .* * .*""<> 0 

• 0 • , 


o * a 0 0 o * 6 
« o ° ° e 0 
• • . 

When you get a cycle where you should be getting a straight 
line, you use the following method. First, the peaks and troughs of 
the original plot are marked (figure 7A). Then, an overlay of 
transparent plastic sheet is put over it, and the dots alone copied. 
Now, it is obvious that these points are simply departures from a 
straight line, which is presented in dashed form (figure 7B). 
Finally, the straight line alone is recopied on to another graph 
paper (figure 7C). 


o o 0 o 

There is nothing so graphic as a graph to make a point graphi- 


RWS - E 

On the imperturbability of elevator 
operators: LVII 

s CANDLESTickmaker Institute for Studied Advances, Old 
Cardigan, Wales (Communicated by John Sykes; received 
October 19, 191 6) 

{Professor John Sykes' famous spoof of Professor S Chandrasekhar delighted 
the 'victim ', who arranged to have it printed in the format of The Astrophysi- 
cal Journal. Some librarians bound it in series without noticing.] 


In this paper the theory of elevator operators is completed to the extent that is 
needed in the elementary theory of Field's. It is shown that the matrix of an eleva- 
tor operator cannot be inverted, no matter how rapid the elevation. An explicit 
solution is obtained for the case when the occupation number is zero. 


In an earlier paper (Candlestickmaker 1954^; this paper will be 
referred to hereafter as 'XXXVIII') the simultaneous effect of a 
magnetic field, an electric field, a Marshall field, rotation, revo- 
lution, translation, and retranslation on the equanimity of an 
elevator operator has been considered. However, the discussion 
in that paper was limited to the case when incivility sets in as a 
stationary pattern of dejection; the alternative possibility of 
overcivility was not considered. This latter possibility is known 
to occur when a Marshall field alone is present; and its occur- 
rence has been experimentally demonstrated by Shopwalker and 
Salesperson (1955) in complete disagreement with the theoretical 
predictions (Nostradamus 1555). The possibility of the occur- 
rence of overcivility when no Marshall field is present has also 
been investigated (Candlestickmaker 1954?); and it has been 
shown that with substances such as U and I it cannot occur. It is 
therefore a matter of some importance that the manner of the 
onset of incivility be determined. This paper is devoted to this 


The notation is more or less the same as in XXXVIII : 


y = first occupant, 
B v = second occupant, 
g g = third occupant, 
O = operator, 
3Jl(0) — matrix of operator, 


a = acceleration of elevation of the conglomeration, 
Q21 = critical £tage number for the onset of incivility, 

The basic equations of the problem on hand are (cf. XXXVIII, 
eqs. [429] and [587]) 

^= ya) +„V 2 ;, (1) 

(5 + 77) B v = a + b + c, (2) 
x — x, (3) 


ge + |m v 2 = 1. (4) 

Using also the relation (Pythagoras — 520) 

32 + 4 2 = 5 2 , (5) 

we find, after some lengthy calculations, 

I 9Jt I = 0, (6) 

which shows that the matrix of the operator cannot be inverted. 
The required characteristic values are the solutions of 
equation (6). From the magnitude of the numerical work which 
was already needed for obtaining the solution for the purely 
rational case (cf. Candlestickmaker and Canna Helpit 1955) we 
may conclude that a direct solution of the characteristic value 
problem presented by equation (6) would be downright miracu- 
lous. Fortunately, as in XXXVIII, the problem can be solved 
explicitly in the case when the occupation number is zero. This is 
admittedly a case which has never occurred within living memory. 
However, from past experience with problems of this kind one 
may feel that any solution is better than none. 


For the reasons just given (i.e., because we cannot solve any 
other problem) we shall restrict ourselves in this paper to a 
consideration of the case when the occupation number is zero. 
In this case Q21 satisfies 

log fl 2 i= 1, (7) 

the solution of which has been obtained numerically; it is 

Qn =2-7. (8) 


On the imperturbability of elevator operators: LVII 

This result shows that the transition to overcivility occurs be- 
tween the values 2 and 3 given by Giftcourt (1956), respectively, 
Bookshelf (1956), a result which should be capable of direct 
experimental confirmation. The author hopes to deal with this 
problem next Saturday afternoon. 

In conclusion, I wish to record my indebtedness to Miss Canna 
Helpit, who carried out the laborious numerical work involved 
in deriving equation (8). 

The research reported in this paper has in part been sup- 
pressed by the Office of Navel Research under Contract Al- 
tum-OU812 with the Institute for Studied Advances. 


Bookshelf, M. F. 1056,/. Gen. Psychol., 237, 476. 
Candlestickmaker, S. 1954a, Zool.Jahrb., 237, 476. 
— . 1954*, Parasitology, 237, 476. 

. 1954c, Zentralbl. Bah., 237, 476. 

. 1954c/, Trans. N.-E. Cst Inst. Engrs. Shipb., 237, 476. 

. 1954c, R. C. Circ. mat. Palermo, 237, 476. 

. 1954/, Adv. Sci., 237, 476. 

. 19545', Math.Japonicae, 237, 476. 

. 1954A, Biol. Bull. Woods Hole, 237, 476. 

. 19542, Bull. Earthq. Res. Inst. Tokyo, 237, 476. 

• 1954;',/- Dairy Sci., 237, 476. 

. 1954^, Ann. Trop. Med. Parasitol., 237, 476. 

. 1954/, Trab. Lab. Invest, biol. Univ. Madrid, 237, 476. 

. 1954m, Cellule, 237, 476. 

. 1954", Bot. Gai., 237, 476. 

. 19540, Derm. Zs., 237, 476. 

. 1954^,/- Pomol., 237, 476. 

. 1954?, Arch. Psychiat. Nervenkr., 237, 476. 

. 1954/-, Sci. Progr. Twent. Cent., 237, 476. 

. 195+r, Portugaliae Math., 237, 476. 

. 1954', Abh. senckenb. naturf. Gesellsch., 237, 476. 

Candlestickmaker, S., and Helpit, Canna E. 1955, Compositio Math., 237, 476. 
Giftcourt, M. F. 1956,/. Symbolic Logic, 237, 476. 
Nostradamus, M. 1555, Centuries (Lyons). 

Pythagoras— 520, in: Euclid— 300, Elements, Book I, Prop. 47 (Athens). 
Shopwalker, M., and Salesperson, F. 1955, Heredity, 237, 476. 

Newspaper report North American Aviation has designed an atomic power plant 
. . . Designers of the model claim that burning 10 pounds of 
fissionable material in such a plant would produce as much power 
as the Hoover Dam. 


The analysis of contemporary music using 
harmonious oscillator wave functions 

Reprinted from 
Proceedings of the 
Rehovoth Con- 
ference on Nuclear 
Structure, held at 
the Weizmann 
Institute of 
September 8-14, 

H ] LIPKIN, Department of Musical Physics, Weizmann Institute 
of Science 

The importance of Harmonious Oscillation in music was well 
known [1] even before the discovery of the Harmonious Oscil- 
lator by Stalminsky [2]. Evidence for shell structure was first 
pointed out by Haydn [3], who discovered the magic number four 
and proved that systems containing four musicleons possessed 
unusual stability [4]. The concept of the magic number was ex- 
tended by Mozart, who introduced the 'Magic Flute' [5], and a 
Magic Mountain was later introduced by Thomas Mann [6]. A 
system of four magic flutes is therefore doubly magic, and four 
magic flutes playing upon a magic mountain would be triply 
magic. Such a system is probably so stable that it does not interact 
with anything at all, and is therefore unobservable. This explains 
the fact that doubly and triply magic systems have never been 

A fundamental advance in the application of spectroscopic tech- 
niques to music is due to RacahmaninofT [7], who showed that 
all musical works can be expressed in terms of a small number of 
parameters, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, along with the introduction of 
Sharps [8]. Work along lines similar to that of Racahmaninoff has 
been done by Wigner, Wagner and Wigner [9] using the Niebel- 
gruppentheorie. Relativistic effects have been calculated by Bach, 
Feshbach, and Offenbach, using the method of Einstein, Infeld, 
and Hoffman [10]. 

There has been no successful attempt thus far to apply the 
Harmonious Oscillator to modern music. The reason for this fail- 
ure, namely that most modern music is not harmonious, was 
noted by Wigner, Wagner and Wigner [11]. 

A more unharmonious approach is that of Brueckner [12], who 
uses plane waves instead of harmonious oscillator functions. 
Although this method shows great promise, it is applicable strictly 
speaking only to infinite systems. The works of the Brueckner 
School are thus suitable only for very large ensembles. 

A few very recent works should also be mentioned. There is the 
Nobel- Prize-winning work of Bloch [13] and Purcell [14] on un- 
clear resonance and conduction. The work of Primakofiev should 
be noted [15], and of course the very fine waltzes presented by 
Strauss [16] at the 'Music for Peace' Conference in Geneva. 

1 G F Handel, The Harmonious Blacksmith (London, 1757) 

2 Igar Stalminsky, Musical Spectroscopy with Harmonious Oscillator Wave 
Functions, Helv. Mus. Acta 1 (1801) I 

3 J Haydn, The a-particle of Music; the String Quartet Op 20 (1801) No 5 


The analysis of contemporary music using harmonious oscillator 
wave functions 

4 A B Budapest, C D Paganini and E F Hungarian, Magic Systems in Music 

5 W A Mozart, A Musical Joke, K234567767 (1799) 

6 T Mann, Joseph Haydn and His Brothers (Interscience, 1944) 

7 G Racahmaninoff, Sonority and Seniority in Music (Invited Lecture, Interna- 
tional Congress on Musical Structure, Rehovoth, 1957) 

8 W T Sharp, Tables of Coefficients (Chalk River, 1955) 

9 E Wigner, R Wagner and E P Wigner, Der Ring Die Niebelgruppen. I Siegbahn 
Idyll (Bayrut, 1900) 

10 J S Bach, H Feshbach and J Offenbach, Tales of Einstein, Infeld and Hoffman 
(Princeton, 1944) 

11 E P Wigner, R Wagner and E Wigner, Gotterdammerungt 7 and other un- 
published remarks made after hearing 'Pierrot Lunaire' 

12 A Brueckner, W Walton and Ludwig von Beethe, Effective Mass in C Major 

13 E Bloch, Schelomo, an Unclear Rhapsody 

14 H Purcell, Variations on a Theme of Britten {A Young Person's Guide to the 

15 S Primakofiev, Peter and the Wolfram-i8s> 

1(5 J Strauss, The Beautiful Blue Cerenkov Radiation; Scientist's Life; Wine, 
Women and Heavy Water; Tales from the Oak Ridge Woods. 

ii±^(piU >kt^i*i^tM^h^)W(frrfiJ \V**S"C***' V*\e£TfHt \U*tip«f>m >H^)»jfr<<H \\l)^?<(pAU.**±GI*(r±U*l±Sl*Q*IA. 

Researchers' prayer 

[The Proceedings of the Chemical Society records some of the 128 verses 
submitted in a competition at Christmas 1962 for quatrains in the style of 
The Fisherman's Prayer: 'God give me strength to catch a fish\So Large 
that even I\ When telling of it afterward] May never need to lie.'] 

Grant, oh God, Thy benedictions 
On my theory s predictions 
Lest the facts, when verified, 
Show Thy servant to have lied. 

May they make me B.Sc, 

A Ph. D. and then 
A D. Sc., and F. R. S., 

A Times Obit. Amen. 

Oh, Lord, I pray, forgive me please. 

My unsuccessful syntheses, 
Thou know 'st, of course — in Thy position — 

I'm up against such competition. 

Let not the hardened Editor, 

With referee to quote, 
Cut all my explanation out 

And print it as a Note. 


From Proceedings 
of the Chemical 
Society, January 
1963, pp 8-10. 



From The insti- jr or a number of years now work has been proceeding in order to 
tuuon of Electrical ^ • perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine that 

Engineers, or . J , , 

Students' Quarterly would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in uni- 
joumal2$ (1955) lateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automati- 
p l84- cally synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such a machine is the 

'Turboencabulator.' Basically, the only new principle involved is 
that instead of power being generated by the relaxive motion of 
conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interactions of 
magneto-reluctance and capacitive directance. 

The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated amulite, 
surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that 
the two spurving bearings were in direct line with the pentametric 
fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzelvanes, so 
fitted to the ambifacient lunar vaneshaft that side fumbling was 
effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus- 
o-delta type placed in panendermic semiboloid slots in the stator, 
every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible 
termic pipe to the differential girdlespring on the 'up' end of the 

Forty-one manestically placed grouting brushes were arranged 
to feed into the rotor slip stream a mixture of high S-value pheny- 
hydrobenzamine and 5 per cent reminative tetraiodohexamine. 
Both of these liquids have specific pericosities given byp = 2- 5 Cn 
where n is the diathecial evolute of retrograde temperature phase 
disposition and C is Cholmondeley's annual grillage coefficient. 
Initially, n was measured with the aid of a metapolar pilfrometer, 
but up to the present date nothing has been found equal to the 
transcentental hopper dadoscope. 

Electrical engineers will appreciate the difficulty of nubbing 
together a regurgitative purwell and a supraminative wennel- 
sprocket. Indeed, this proved to be a stumbling block to further 
development until, in 1943, it was found that the use of anhydrous 
naggling pins enabled a kyptonastic boiling shim to be tankered. 

The early attempts to construct a sufficiently robust spiral 
decommutator failed largely because of lack of appreciation of the 
large quasi-piestic stresses in the gremlin studs; the latter were 
specially designed to hold the roffit bars to the spamshaft. When, 
however, it was discovered that wending could be prevented by a 
simple addition of tooth to sockets almost perfect running was 

The operating point is maintained as near as possible to the hf 
rem peak by constantly fromaging the bituminous spandrels. This 



is a distinct advance on the standard nivelsheave in that no dram- 
mock oil is required after the phase detractors have remissed. 

Undoubtedly, the turboencabulator has now reached a very 
high level of technical development. It has been successfully used 
for operating nofer trunnions. In addition, whenever a barescent 
skor motion is required, it may be employed in conjunction with a 
drawn reciprocating dingle arm to reduce sinusoidal deplenera- 

Heaven is hotter than Hell 

From Applied The temperature of Heaven can be rather accurately computed 
(1972) Al4 from available data - 0ur a uthority is the Bible: Isaiah 30:26 
reads, Moreover the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the 
Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven 
days. Thus Heaven receives from the Moon as much radiation 
as we do from the Sun and in addition seven times seven (forty- 
nine) times as much as the Earth does from the Sun, or fifty 
times in all. The light we receive from the Moon is a ten-thou- 
sandth of the light we receive from the Sun, so we can ignore 
that. With these data we can compute the temperature of 
Heaven. The radiation falling on Heaven will heat it to the point 
where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received 
by radiation. In other words, Heaven loses fifty times as much 
heat as the Earth by radiation. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann 
fourth-power law for radiation 

where E is the absolute temperature of the Earth — 300K. 
This gives Fas 798 K (525° C). 

The exact temperature of Hell cannot be computed but it 
must be less than 444-6° C, the temperature at which brimstone 
or sulphur changes from a liquid to a gas. Revelations 21:8: But 
the fearful, and unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake 
which burnetii with fire and brimstone. A lake of molten brim- 
stone means that its temperature must be below the boiling 
point, which is 444-6 °C. (Above this point it would be a vapour, 
not a lake.) 

We have, then, temperature of Heaven, 525°C. Temperature 
of Hell, less than 445°C. Therefore, Heaven is hotter than Hell. 


On the feasibility of coal-driven 
power stations 


From The Journal 
of Jocular Physics 3, 
pp 27-30 in 
of the 70th birthday 
of Professor Niels 
Bohr (October 7, 
1955) at the 
Institutet for 
Teoretick Fysick, 

The following article is reprinted from the Yearbook of the Royal 
Institute for the Utilization of Energy Sources for the Year 
MMMMCMLV, piooi. 

In view of the acute crisis caused by the threat of exhaustion of 
uranium and thorium from the Earth and Moon Mining System, 
the Editors thought it advisable to give the new information con- 
tained in the article the widest possible distribution. 

Introduction. The recent discovery of coal (black fossilized plant 
remains) in a number of places offers an interesting alternative to 
the production of power from fission. Some of the places where 
coal has been found show indeed signs of previous exploitation by 
prehistoric men who, however, probably used it for jewels and to 
blacken their faces at tribal ceremonies. 

The power potentialities depend on the fact that coal can be 
readily oxidized, with the production of a high temperature and 
an energy of about o-ooooooi megawattday per gramme. This is, of 
course, very little, but large amounts of coal (perhaps millions of 
tons) appear to be available. 

The chief advantage is that the critical amount is very much 
smaller for coal than for any fissile material. Fission plants become, 
as is well known, uneconomical below 50 megawatts, and a coal- 
driven plant may be competitive for isolated communities with 
small power requirements. 

Design of a coal reactor. The main problem is to achieve free, yet 
controlled, access of oxygen to the fuel elements. The kinetics of 
the coal-oxygen reaction are much more complicated than fission 
kinetics, and not yet completely understood. A differential equa- 
tion which approximates the behaviour of the reaction has been 
set up, but its solution is possible only in the simplest cases. 

It is therefore proposed to make the reaction vessel in the form 
of a cylinder, with perforated walls to allow the combustion gases 
to escape. A concentric inner cylinder, also perforated, serves to 
introduce the oxygen, while the fuel elements are placed between 
the two cylinders. The necessary presence of end plates poses a 
difficult but not insoluble mathematical problem. 

Fuel elements. It is likely that these will be easier to manufacture 
than in the case of fission reactors. Canning is unnecessary and 
indeed undesirable since it would make it impossible for the 
oxygen to gain access to the fuel. Various lattices have been calcu- 
lated, and it appears that the simplest of all— a close packing of 


On the feasibility of coal-driven power stations 

equal spheres— is likely to be satisfactory. Computations are in 
progress to determine the optimum size of the spheres and the 
required tolerances. Coal is soft and easy to machine; so the 
manufacture of the spheres should present no major problem. 

Oxidant. Pure oxygen is of course ideal but costly; it is therefore 
proposed to use air in the first place. However it must be remem- 
bered that air contains 78 per cent of nitrogen. If even a fraction 
of that combined with the carbon of the coal to form the highly 
toxic gas cyanogens this would constitute a grave health hazard 
(see below). 

Operation and Control. To start the reaction one requires a fairly 
high temperature of about 988°F; this is most conveniendy 
achieved by passing an electric current between the inner and 
outer cylinder (the end plates being made of insulating ceramic). 
A current of several thousand amps is needed, at some 30 volts, 
and the required large storage battery will add substantially to 
the cost of the installation. 

There is the possibility of starting the reaction by some auxiliary 
self-starting reaction, such as that between phosphine and hydro- 
gen peroxide ; this is being looked into. 

Once the reaction is started its rate can be controlled by adjust- 
ing the rate at which oxygen is admitted ; this is almost as simple 
as the use of control rods in a conventional fission reactor. 

Corrosion. The walls of the reactor must withstand a temperature 
of well over a iooo°F in the presence of oxygen, nitrogen, car- 
bon monoxide and dioxide, as well as small amounts of sulphur 
dioxide and other impurities, some still unknown. Few metals or 
ceramics can resist such gruelling conditions. Niobium with a 
thin lining of nickel might be an attractive possibility, but pro- 
bably solid nickel will have to be used. For the ceramic, fused 
thoria appears to be the best bet. 

Health Hazards. The main health hazard is attached to the gaseous 
waste products. They contain not only carbon monoxide and 
sulphur dioxide (both highly toxic) but also a number of carcino- 
genic compounds such as phenanthrene and others. To discharge 
those into the air is impossible ; it would cause the tolerance level 
to be exceeded for several miles around the reactor. 

It is therefore necessary to collect the gaseous waste in suitable 
containers, pending chemical detoxification. Alternatively the 


waste might be mixed with hydrogen and filled into large bal- 
loons which are subsequently released. 

The solid waste products will have to be removed at frequent 
intervals (perhaps as often as daily !), but the health hazards in- 
volved in that operation can easily be minimized by the use of 
conventional remote-handling equipment. The waste could then 
be taken out to sea and dumped. 

There is a possibility— though it may seem remote— that the 
oxygen supply may get out of control; this would lead to melting 
of the entire reactor and the liberation of vast amounts of toxic 
gases. Here is a grave argument against the use of coal and in 
favour of fission reactors which have proved their complete 
safety over a period of several thousand years. It will probably 
take decades before a control system of sufficient reliability can 
be evolved to allay the fears of those to whom the safety of our 
people is entrusted. 

Bedside manner 

From a first year examination in Physics for medical students 
Q: Explain in molecular terms why hot air rises. 
A: When a gas is heated, the molecules move faster. By Einstein's 
theory of relativity, the mass of a body increases with velocity. 

Density = mass/volume 

The mass increases .'. the density decreases, so the hot air rises. 

When an investigator has developed a formula which gives a 
complete representation of the phenomena within a certain range, 
he may be prone to satisfaction. Would it not be wiser if he should 
say 'Foiled again ! I can find out no more about Nature along this 

'The fusion plasma requires a temperature of 500 million degrees, 
but I forget whether that's Centigrade or Absolute.'— Remark 
overheard by Arthur H Snell, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

Sir Arthur 
quoted in Astro- 
physical Journal 


A theory of ghosts 


From The Worm it should be stated at the outset that this is a paper on physics, 
iT^{iyj\) St not meta physics. Many physicists have turned to pseudo- 
philosophy, metaphysics or parapsychology, but not the writer; 
at least not yet. 

It is well known that ghosts can penetrate closed doors and 
internal walls of buildings up to four inches or so (0-1 m) in 
thickness. There is some evidence however that they remain 
confined when present in old buildings with external wall thick- 
ness of a foot or more. According to the elementary ideas of 
wave mechanics (Schrodinger 1928, de Broglie and Brillouin 
1928) this establishes them as objects whose associated wave 
functions decrease to 1/2-7 of their full amplitude at about 0-1 m 
from their boundary. Their wavelength is therefore of this order 
of magnitude and their mass at low velocity must be less than 
that of the electron by a factor of the order of 10 16 , that is it must 
be about 10~ 46 kg. 

Evidently an object of such low mass can be accelerated to 
high velocity with very little expenditure of energy. Relativistic 
effects must therefore be considered when dealing with its 
motion (Einstein 1905) and it will be understood that velocities 
such as the escape velocity from the earth's gravitational field 
can readily be attained. The latter velocity is 25000 mph, or 
10 kms -1 , independent of the mass of the object (Newton 1687). 
The energy required is only 10 -38 J. A breath of wind will 
therefore more than suffice to start the ghost on a journey 
through the solar system, while minor interactions en route 
could eject it from the solar system on the way to the stars. The 
recently discovered solar wind (Cowley 1969) will suffice to 
accelerate ghosts almost to the velocity of light away from the 
sun's neighbourhood. 

It is not surprising that in spite of the enormous number of 
ghosts formed by the demise of homo sapiens alone, over the last 
million years or so, the number of ghosts encountered on the 
earth's surface remains small. Admittedly, it is not obvious that 
homo sapiens is the only source of ghostly objects. It is likely, 
however, that all ghost material has extremely low density, so that 
the ghosts of large objects, both animate and inanimate, will also 
be dispersed very readily [1]. However, to pursue this topic 

i A collision between two cars recently reported in the press caused the one to 
disappear and no damage to the other. Clearly a ghost car of very low mass was 


would be an unwarrantable digression from the main subject of 
interest to us, which is naturally the ghost of human origin [2], 


Proceeding with this subject, it is clear that when, for example, a 
person is pierced with a spear which is not removed, or hanged 
in chains, his ghost will remain at the spot and haunt it even 
though the sad event occurs in the open air. The spear or the 
chains are real objects with normal mass. In the absence of such 
impedimenta, a ghost will however rapidly leave the site and as 
we have seen will probably leave the earth and will quite 
possibly leave the solar system. However, following death in 
dungeons or in the interior of old castles with thick walls and 
small windows, the escape probability is very small even with 
the small mass we have determined and the ghost will haunt such 
a habitat for many years. (Wearing armour or dragging chains 
will of course prolong the period enormously. A layer of dust 
will produce a substantial increase.) 

It is interesting to notice that a ghost will be accelerated to, 
say, 0-7 times the velocity of light by a very small amount of 
work, about 10 -29 J. Its mass is then twice its rest mass (see 
Einstein 1905) and its wavelength is halved (see Schrodinger 
1928, de Broglie and Brillouin 1928). Thus it is less able to pene- 
trate a wall or door once its speed has increased substantially. A 
ghost in rapid motion in a confined space therefore will be less 
likely to escape than when moving slowly. It will also be diffi- 
cult to locate. Although its momentum will be small, it will be 
large enough to displace light-weight objects on collision. Thus, 
we have an explanation not only of ghosts themselves, but also 
of the 'poltergeist' phenomenon; vases and other light articles 
will be displaced from shelves in a, no doubt, disconcerting 
manner, since the presence of high speed ghosts will be almost 
impossible to observe directly. Like many so called 'elementary 
particles' in physics, their presence can be detected only by the 
secondary effects they produce (for example, the neutrino, see 
Pauli 1933). 

Evidently one can in no sense eject such ghosts by the use of 
violence; any further increase in an already high velocity will 
merely make escape more difficult. The only approach, if the 

2 Consider, for example, A Pope, An Essay on Mankind. 


A theory of ghosts 

presence of a high speed ghost is deemed undesirable, is to seek to 
calm it and bring it to rest, so that it can glide slowly through the 
wall. No doubt the procedure of exorcism is intended to achieve 
this result, though the author confesses that the details of how 
this is done remain obscure to him. It follows, incidentally, as 
will be seen below that the attempt is best made in near darkness. 

It should be realized that the velocity of ghosts due to thermal 
agitation will be very large at ordinary temperatures, in view of 
their remarkably small mass. Thus the average energy of 20° C, 
3kT}2 (Maxwell 1860, Boltzmann 1872), will correspond with a 
velocity near that of light. Few ghosts will be moving slowly 
enough to be seen, unless they are very cold, or they attach 
themselves to some material object. 


When light impinges on the surface of an object, it exerts pres- 
sure (Maxwell 1873) and carries momentum. One photon of 
visible light incident on the surface of a ghost and reflected from 
it could transfer momentum Ihvjc, 10 -27 J s m -1 , which would 
cause acceleration to a very high velocity. A ghost which was 
not loaded, or holding on to some object or person, would be 
removed rapidly if the walls were thin, or would otherwise 
display poltergeist phenomena. Presumably the reflection coeffi- 
cient of the surface of a ghost must be much less than 100%, 
or it might never be seen at all. No doubt for this reason it 
appears to be general experience that ghosts are seen only under 
conditions of poor illumination. To examine a ghost, one should 
not shine a torch at it; a shielded candle is more suitable. 

The low mass leads to a very large shift in wavelength A A 
of radiation incident on a ghost's surface and scattered by it 
(Compton 1923). The value of AA for a mass of 10~ 46 kg can be 
as large as 10 4 m; thus all short wave radiation such as light, 
infrared etc will be scattered at radiofrequencies. The scattering 
of short wave radiation by ghosts in flight through the universe 
will therefore be a major source of cosmic radio noise. Attempts 
made so far by astronomers to explain this noise have, unfor- 
tunately, taken too little account of this contribution. 

It has sometimes been thought that ghosts produce a sensa- 
tion of cold in their environment. This is perhaps to be ex- 
pected if they have just returned from outer space, where the 
temperature is believed to be about three degrees absolute 
(Penzias and Wilson 1965). It is less obvious why this should 


occur if they have been resident for some time, as in an old castle 
(unless, indeed, they have internal means of refrigeration, which 
seems unlikely, but perhaps not impossible). If the observation 
is correct, it implies that ghosts must have quite a high specific 
heat. This would, in turn, indicate that in spite of their very low 
mass, they are not structureless objects. It is evidently important 
to obtain more reliable evidence as to the temperature and 
specific heat of ghosts [3]. 


The concept of a quasiparticle of large area and volume is new 
to physics, though it does not appear to be excluded a priori. 
Whether such an object would seem to us to be hot or cold 
when stationary is not by any means obvious; temperature and 
specific heat of ordinary particles depend on the state of motion. 
Thus, even if the observation is correct, it is not certain that 
ghosts have structure; they might still be elementary particles. 
Moreover the observation may be wrong ; the impression of cold 
may be an illusion, or the result of faulty reporting. It is con- 
ceivable, for instance, that the observer experiences a sensation 
of cold through fear, although it is not obvious why such a 
reaction occurs. 

We shall, therefore, proceed to consider the situation if the 
concept of a quasiparticle is applicable. It would then be desir- 
able to investigate their spin properties, which would determine 
whether they obey the Fermi-Dirac (Fermi 1926, Diratt 1926) 
or the Bose-Einstein (Bose 1924, Einstein 1924) statistics [4]. It is 
always desirable in physics (both pure and applied), when a new 
question emerges, to propose an experimental method of 
obtaining evidence. In this case the behaviour of ghosts in a 
magnetic field would be enlightening [5]. 

If ghosts tend to accumulate in any part of the universe, in 
what the physicist would no doubt call a 'sink', and if they can 
be regarded as particles, they will constitute a 'degenerate' or 
'condensed' population even at very low density (eg one ghost 
per ( metre 3 . The details will of course depend on which statistics 
they obey. 

3 Their measurement mighr constitute a valuable practical project for final year 
university students in applied physics. 

4 All readers will appreciate the importance of this issue. 

5 This might also lead to a good final year project. One is always on the lookout 
for these. 


A theory of ghosts 

It is tempting to envisage that in human ghosts (and indeed 
not only human) a trace of sexual difference is 'carried over' [6], 
and would be represented by the antisymmetric wavefunctions 
characteristic of Fermi-Dirac statistics. Particles obeying these 
statistics would have half integral spin, and the ultimate state 
would be one in which ghosts of opposite spin had paired up to 
occupy the energy states available, each pair in one state. This 
highly satisfactory disposition from the point of view of the 
physicist [7] might well constitute a state of bliss that all ghosts 
hope to achieve. 

Whether there is such a 'pool' or 'sink', whether these terms 
are really appropriate for such a state, and where in the uni- 
verse it is, remain problems which we may solve only in the 
future. Meanwhile, we have offered a theory which meets 
the requirements of a contribution to science: It coordinates the 
known facts in the light of existing knowledge, it is not contrary 
to known facts and it suggests further lines of enquiry to be 
pursued in the future. Furthermore, it illuminates an area of 
human experience that had previously been thought inaccessible 
to the scientific method. 

6 Here I confess we enter the realm of speculation, not really consistent with a 
scientific discourse. 

7 The mathematician no doubt would refer to it as an 'elegant' solution. 


Boltzmann L 1872 IVien. Ber. 66 27; 
Bose S N 1924 Z. Phys. 26 178 
Compton A H 1923 Phys. Rev. 22 41 1 
Cowley T G 1969 The Observatory 89 217 

De Broglie L and Brillouin L 1928 Selected Papers on Wave Mechanics (London: 

Dirac P A M 1926 Proc. R. Soc. A 112 

Einstein A 1905 Ann. Phys. Lpi. 17 891 

Einstein A 1924 Sitxher. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 261 

Fermi E 1926 Z. Phys. 36 902 

Maxwell J C i860 Phil. Mag. 19 19-21 

Maxwell J C 1873 A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (Oxford: Clarendon 

Newton I 1687 Principia London 

Pauli W 1933 Inst. Solvay, yth Session, Brussels P324 

Penzias A A and Wilson R W 196; /. Astrophys. 142 419 

Schrodinger E 1928 Collected Papers on Wave Mechanics (London: Blackie) 


A stress analysis of a strapless 
evening gown 


Condensed from 
A Stress Analysis 
of a Strapless 
Evening Gown 
and other essays, 
ed Robert A Baker 

Effective as the strapless evening gown is in attracting attention, 
it presents tremendous engineering problems to the structural 
engineer. He is faced with the problem of designing a dress which 
appears as if it will fall at any moment and yet actually stays up 
with some small factor of safety. Some of the problems faced by 
the engineer readily appear from the following structural analysis 
of strapless evening gowns. 

figure I. Forces acting on cloth element. 

If a small elemental strip of cloth from a strapless evening gown 
is isolated as a free body in the area of plane A in figure 1, it can 
be seen that the tangential force F is balanced by the equal and 
opposite tangential force F. The downward vertical force W 
(weight of the dress) is balanced by the force V acting vertically 
upward due to the stress in the cloth above plane A. Since the 
algebraic summation of vertical and horizontal forces is zero and 
no moments are acting, the elemental strip is at equilibrium. 

Consider now an elemental strip of cloth isolated as a free body 
in the area of plane B of figure 1. The two tangible forces Fi and 
F% are equal and opposite as before, but the force W (weight of 
dress) is not balanced by an upward force V because there is no 
cloth above plane B to supply this force. Thus, the algebraic 
summation of horizontal forces is zero, but the sum of the vertical 
forces is not zero. Therefore, this elemental strip is not in equili- 
brium; but it is imperative, for social reasons, that this elemental 
strip be in equilibrium. If the female is naturally blessed with 
sufficient pectoral development, she can supply this very vital 


A stress analysis of a strapless evening gown 

figure 2. Force distribution of cantilever beam 
(fsb = flexural stress in beam.) 

force and maintain the elemental strip at equilibrium. If she is 
not, the engineer has to supply this force by artificial methods. 

In some instances, the engineer has made use of friction to supply 
this force. The friction force is expressed byF= fN, where F\s 
the frictional force,/ the coefficient of friction and .Wis the normal 
force acting perpendicularly to F. Since, for a given female and a 
given dress, /is constant, then to increase F, the normal force N 
has to be increased. One obvious method of increasing the normal 
force is to make the diameter of the dress at c in figure 2 smaller 
than the diameter of the female at this point. This has, however, 
the disadvantage of causing the fibres along the line c to collapse, 
and, if too much force is applied, the wearer will experience 

As if the problem were not complex enough, some females re- 
quire that the back of the gown be lowered to increase the expo- 
sure and correspondingly attract more attention. In this case, the 
horizontal forces Fi and F2 (figure 1) are no longer acting hori- 
zontally, but are replaced by forces 7i and T 2 acting downward 
at an angle a. Therefore, there is a total downward force equal 
to the weight of the dress below B + the vector summation of 
Ti and T2. This vector sum increases in magnitude as the back is 
lowered because R = zT sin a, and the angle a increases as the 
back is lowered. Therefore, the vertical uplifting force which has 
to be supplied for equilibrium is increased for low-back gowns. 

Since these evening gowns are worn to dances, an occasional 
horizontal force, shown in figure 2 as i, is accidentally delivered 


to the beam at the point c, causing impact loading, which com- 
presses all the fibres of the beam. This compression tends to cancel 
the tension in the fibres between e and b, but it increases the com- 
pression between c and d. The critical area is at point d, as the 
fibres here are subject not only to compression due to moment 
and impact, but also to shear due to the force S; a combination of 
low, heavy dress with impact loading may bring the fibres at 
point d to the 'danger point.' 

There are several reasons why the properties discussed in this 
paper have never been determined. For one, there is a scarcity of 
these beams for experimental investigation. Many females have 
been asked to volunteer for experiments along these lines in the 
interest of science, but unfortunately, no cooperation was en- 
countered. There is also the difficulty of the investigator having 
the strength of mind to ascertain purely the scientific facts. Mean- 
while, trial and error and shrewd guesses will have to be used by 
the engineer in the design of strapless evening gowns until 
thorough investigations can be made. 

Two classroom stories 


One day when using an audio oscillator in a lecture demonstration, 
I asked students to raise their hands if they could hear the note 
being emitted from the loudspeaker. As I increased the frequency, 
the hands began to drop; eventually all of them dropped as the 
pitch passed the human threshold. 'But isn't there anyone who can 
hear the note ?' I persisted. From one of the students at the rear 
came the reply, 'Bow-wow !' 

Paul Kirkpatrick was giving a lecture demonstration on X-rays. 
He asked for a handbag for interposition between the X-ray source 
and a fluorescent screen; one co-ed lent hers. In the darkened 
room he substituted another purse with a pistol inside. The co-ed 
let out a shriek of embarrassment, the rest of the class a roar of 
laughter. (But that was during the domestically tranquil days of 
World War II; perhaps the stunt would not be funny today.) 


Murphy's law 


Condensed from Murphy's Law states that 'If anything can go wrong, it will.' Or, 
^EdsdMwphy \o t0 state ' n m more exact mathematical form : 

the Understanding „ i „ . _ „ 

of Behaviour in 1 

! n f™ te ° b j eas ' where kt is the mathematical symbol for 'hardly ever'. 

in EEE: The m 1 in • i > i i 1 

Magaiim of Circuit To show the all-pervasive nature ot Murphy s work, the author 
Design (August offers a few applications of the law to the electronic engineering 
I?67) ' industry. 


1. A patent application will be preceded by one week by a similar 
application made by an independent worker. 

2. The more innocuous a design change appears, the further its 
influence will extend. 

3. All warranty and guarantee clauses become void on payment 
of invoice. 

4. An important Instruction Manual or Operating Manual will 
have been discarded by the Receiving Department. 


5. Any error that can creep in, will. It will be in the direction that 
will do most damage to the calculation. 

6. All constants are variables. 

7. In a complicated calculation, one factor from the numerator 
will always move into the denominator. 


8. Any wire cut to length will be too short. 

9. Tolerances will accumulate unidirectionally towards maximum 
difficulty of assembly. 

10. Identical units tested under identical conditions will not be 
identical in the field. 

11. If a project requires n components, there will be (n — i) 
units in stock. 

12. A dropped tool will land where it can do most damage; the 
most delicate component will be the one to drop. (Also known as 
the principle of selective gravity.) 

13. A device selected at random from a group having 99 per cent 
reliability will be a member of the 1 per cent group. 


14. A transistor protected by a fast-acting fuse will protect the 
fuse by blowing first. 

15. A purchased component or instrument will meet its specifica- 
tions long enough, and only long enough, to pass Incoming 

16. After an access cover has been secured by 16 hold-down 
screws, it will be discovered that the gasket has been omitted. 

Thermoelectric effect 

\We should never laugh at the scientific speculations of past ages, but we 
can surely be permitted a smile. These extracts are from the notebook {now 
in the possession of L Mackinnon, Essex University) of a student who 
attended lectures on Natural Science at Marischal College, Aberdeen (one 
of the two universities then in that town) in the academic year 1 834-5. 
Thermoelectricity had been discovered twelve years previously^ 

The electrical motion produced by heating a body, is produced by 
the Sun on the Earth. The effect of heat on matter can produce 
Electricity in different ways. The course of the Sun appears to be 
from East to West, and this is occasioned by the evolution of the 
Magnetic action. We already mentioned that Mr Sebeck heated one 
of the slips of copper, hence as it is warmer at the Equator than at 
the North pole, we may consider the Equator the heated part, 
and the North pole that which is kept cool. Electricity is the cause 
of bodies revolving round the Sun, and by this means we are 
enabled to explain the causes of the revolutions of all the heavenly 

With regard to volcanos. The Earth is composed of Strata and 
admitting the supposition that the Earth is a large Galvanic 
battery, we shall be able to account for several phenomenas in 

The production of fire in the bowels of the Earth is evolved from 
the Galvanic apparatus, without being supplied from any other 

There is a burning mountain in Iceland, and when Vesuvius or 
/Etna are in eruption, they are in all probability the termination of 
a large pile. The compass needle is considerably affected by a 
'Thunder Storm' for the Electricity of the atmosphere carries off 
the Magnetism, and by the 'Eruption of volcanos'. 


A glossary for research reports 


From Metal Pro- l t has long been known that. . . . 

gress 71, 75 0957). 

... of great theoretical and 
practical importance 

While it has not been possible to 
provide definite answers to these 
questions . . . 

The W-Pb system was chosen as 
especially suitable to show the 
predicted behaviour. . . . 

High-purity . . . 
Very high purity . . . 
Extremely high purity . . . 
Super-purity . . . 
Spectroscopically pure . . . 

A fiducial reference line . . . 

Three of the samples were 
chosen for detailed study . . . 

. . . accidentally strained during 

. . . handled with extreme care 
throughout the experiments 

Typical results are shown . . . 

Although some detail has been 
lost in reproduction, it is clear 
from the original micrograph 
that . . . 

Presumably at longer times . . . 

The agreement with the 
predicted curve is excellent 





I haven't bothered to look up 
the original reference 

. . . interesting to me 

The experiments didn't work 
out, but I figured I could at 
least get a publication out of it 

The fellow in the next lab had 
some already made up 

Composition unknown except 
for the exaggerated claims of 
the supplier 

A scratch 

The results on the others didn't 
make sense and were ignored 

. . . dropped on the floor 
. . . not dropped on the floor 

The best results are shown 

It is impossible to tell from the 

I didn't take time to find out 


. . as good as could be 

These results will be reported 
at a later date 

The most reliable values are 
those of Jones 

It is suggested that . . . 
It is believed that . . . 
It may be that . . . 

It is generally believed that . . 
It might be argued that . . . 


I might possibly get around to 
this sometime 

He was a student of mine 

I think 

A couple of other guys think 
so too 

I have such a good answer to 
this objection that I shall now 
rdse it 

I don't understand it 

Neither does anybody else 


It is clear that much additional 
work will be required before a 
complete understanding . . . 

Unfortunately, a quantitative 
theory to account for these 
effects has not been formulated 

Correct within an order of 

It is to be hoped that this work This paper isn't very good, 
will stimulate further work in but neither are any of the 
the field others in this miserable 


Thanks are due to Joe Glotz for Glotz did the work and Doe 
assistance with the experiments explained what it meant 
and to John Doe for valuable 

Technological progress has merely provided us with more effi- 
cient means for going backwards. 



Why we must go to the Moon 


From Martin 
Levin's ' Phoenix 
Nest', Saturday- 

(13 December, 
1969), p 4. 

Many persons have asked me, why should we send men to the 
moon. These concerned citizens question the wisdom of spending 
billions to explore space, when so much remains to be done here 
on earth in combating acid indigestion and dull, unmanageable hair. 
To these people I give a simple answer: We need the data that the 
moon and the planets can provide. And we need it pretty quick. 

It is no longer a secret that the world's resources of unpro- 
cessed data are running dangerously low. Experts estimate 
variously that known reserves, once so abundant, will be ex- 
hausted in five to fifteen years. Unless new supplies are found 
before then, a crisis of unprecedented proportions will be upon us. 
To a world running out of raw facts, the moon promises a vast, 
untapped mine of new information, never before punched on 
cards, and sufficient to take the pressure off the situation for 
decades, surveyor ii revealed what appear to be natural lumps 
of pure data the size of turtle eggs lying exposed on the surface, 
waiting to be scooped up. So rich a trove so near at hand makes 
the moon our best hope for staving off a dilemma that becomes 
yearly more acute. Indeed, the spectacle of a grown man travel- 
ling 250000 miles to gather a sackful of pebbles takes on meaning 
only when we consider it in this light. 

Still, 'I don't get it', some troubled questioners persist, and their 
artless query strikes close to the heart of the issue. For few laymen 
are able to appreciate the danger toward which we are swiftly 
drifting. In a few short years, all the data the earth has to offer will 
have been ground through the world-wide array of data-proces- 
sing machines; all the computations possible will have been per- 
formed, analysed, printed out, and stored. Eventually, one by one, 
the tape reels will come to a halt, the control units will cease their 
clicking, the flickering console lights will fall into a steady, 
ominous pattern. Computer centres everywhere will be suffused 
with the dull reddish glow of a thousand warning FEED lights 
demanding input. 

Unless we go to the moon now, there will be no input to feed 
them. The thought has given men at the Rand Corporation the 
cold shivers. 

Why is this so ? That is a question the experts seem reluctant to 
talk about. 'A busy computer is a contented computer,' they 
murmur. And indeed, extravagant measures are taken to protect 
the big brains against the possibility of idleness. They are kept 
running around the clock, watched by relays of operators oriented 
to scramble for fresh material when the FEED light glows. 


Originally, this began as a matter of economic utilization of costly 
equipment. But it has long since gone far beyond that simple 
concept. Again, the experts are vague. 'The devil finds work for 
idle circuits to do,' they are apt to mutter, uneasily. This topic 
meets everywhere with ill-concealed anxiety and evasiveness, and 
a chilling conclusion eventually forces itself upon one : at bottom, 
nobody knows— nobody really knows for sure how the computers 
would react if the data stopped coming. 

'They ask for data— we give it to them,' snapped a dean at 
MIT. 'We don't want no trouble.' 

'They are very smart cookies,' said an IBM engineer carefully. 
'Their memories are exhaustive, their logic is infallible, their 
decisions are— ruthless.' He heshated. 'They do not know com- 
passion.' Then he clammed up. 

The importance and urgency of gaining access to the lunar data 
fields is apparent in the vast amount of money, effort, and risk 
involved in bringing it about. The conclusion is inescapable that, 
not only does no one know what to expect from a population of 
computers contemplating starvation— no one cares to find out. The 
expedition to the moon is a gigantic undertaking, fraught with 
peril and demanding of much sacrifice. But there is little choice. 
We must go. 

Face to face with metrication 

norman stone Chief Information Officer, Metrication Board, 

Some traditional weights and measures are funny enough in them- 
selves. I cannot say 'Two fardels equal one nooke' to myself 
without smiling; I am delighted that the fathom originally meant 
the distance a Viking encompassed in a hug; the Statute of Henry 
I which defined the foot in terms of thirty-six barleycorns taken 
from the width of the ear has a charm of its own; there is some- 
thing laughable in the fact that the gauge of railways in Britain is 
the same as the distance between the wheels of a Roman chariot; 
and who would not be amused at the recollection that the basis of 
much modern town planning is the acre, an area ploughable in 
one day by a team of two oxen. It is one furrow long (furlong) 
by one chain. 


Life on Earth (by a Martian) 


Condensed from 
The Rockefeller 
Institute Review 
2 no 6, pp 8-14. 
Illustrations by 
Mrs Vera Teleki. 

We had timed our approach to Earth to fall into the dark phase of 
the diurnal cycle. Yet, as we came nearer, we noticed that not all 
was darkness. There were streaks of light like knotted ribbons. 
They seemed to move in waves, mostly in one direction. From a 
still closer view, the knots proved to be separate bodies; they 

moved indeed, in spasms of alternating spurts and stalls. If life is 
motion, here was life. Each luminous knot was obviously an indi- 
vidual organism. Each had the polarized appearance of a wedge 
and seemed in finer resolution to consist of smaller subunits; some- 
thing like cells. Why they should move in file and unison did not 
become clear to us until we came in still closer and saw the cause : 
they all were positively phototactic, attracted by a flickering light 
source, toward which we likewise now steered our course. Hover- 
ing over it, we recognized our first mistake: the knots, which 
from a distance had looked to us like single individuals, had 
dissociated into the putative 'subunits.' These latter thus revealed 
themselves, by their separate existence and independent motility, 
as the true elemental carriers of life on Earth. 

So we kept watching them.- Rather than rush right on into the 
attractive light source, they stopped just short of it and formed a 
handsome sort of crystalline array. For some time after, they 
remained immobile and soundless. The only sounds we heard 


came from that light trap. We thought they slept. So, we took 
courage to land and inspect them. That was when we noticed that 
motion had stopped only superficially. For inside each unit we 
perceived a pair of structures that kept on squirming. Whether 
these were peristaltic internal organs or some sort of wiggly 


Life on Earth 

endoparasites, we had to leave unresolved, for our inspection was 
cut short abruptly when suddenly the light went out and the 
various creatures resumed locomotion, all in the reverse direction, 
though not all at once. 

In order to study life on Earth in more detail, we decided to 
wait for daylight, fully prepared to be discovered. Unaccountably, 
this never happened. We therefore were able to go about our 
explorations undisturbed and at great leisure. And what we 


learned was truly unexpected, almost incredible. To sum it up: 
Life on Earth has so many features in common with our own that 
we must concede the possibility that Martians and 'Earthians,' as 
we call them, might be akin. Unpalatable though this deduction 
may be to the glorious leaders of our superior Martian people, in 
our conscience as scientists we cannot evade it, provided we can 
document its premise. And document it we can. For we can prove 
that Earthians metabolize, eat, drink, and groom; generate heat 
and light and sound ; proliferate and die ; and they, like us, vary in 
size and mood; in short, have individualities. 

In structure, they are, like us, of symmetrical build and slighdy 
polarized, although one cannot always tell the two ends easily 
apart, a feature perhaps correlated with their ability to move in 
opposite directions. Just how they move at all, we are unable to 
explain. What confounded us was that while most of them make 
contact with the ground at four points, others use only two; 
should the latter, more unstable, perhaps be rated as degenerative 
forms ? 

In volume, the majority fall roughly into three size classes. 
These evidently represent three different age groups, mass in- 
creasing with age, though not continuously, but rather in meta- 
morphic steps. Moreover, our measurements of locomotor speeds 


Life on Earth 

revealed a striking inverse relation between velocity and size, 
which would bear out the familiar rule that vigour and speed 
decline with age. 

As we kept on observing, we could not fail to be struck by one 
peculiar constant attribute of Earthians: they had invariably 
associated with them some rather unimpressive bodies of much 
smaller size. These we have now definitely identified and classified 
as obligatory parasites of the Earthians, for the following good 
reasons : 

1. They are lodged, for the most part, in the interior of Earthians. 

2. Although at times they are disgorged to the outside, they never 
stray far off, and soon re-enter their hosts. 

3. They are more numerous in larger hosts. Therefore, since host 
size reflects host age, the accessory bodies obviously multiply 
inside the hosts as the latter grow. 

4. Even when detached from their hosts, the little bodies show 
only extremely limited capacity for independent active motion. 
Whatever motility we could observe contrasted drastically with 
that of Earthians by its sluggishness and, above all, its lack of 

5. Lastly, the fact that they make only unstable two-point contact 
with the ground likewise puts them into the degenerative class. 


We have given these parasitic bodies the name of 'Miruses.' 
Because of their plainly ancillary nature, we shall ignore them in 
our detailed story, which now returns to our main subject — The 
Earthians themselves. The evidence that these are truly living 
creatures is overwhelming. 


Life on Earth 

In the first place, they metabolize ; that is, they take in substances 
from the environment, extract energy from them, and give off 
wastes, mostly as gas and smoke. Intake is mosdy liquid, through 
two holes. One is in back; the other one in front. The front one 
seems to be much more important because it is quite near what 


may be the brain, protected by a huge operculum. In fact, the 
two seem to have totally different functions. We judge this from a 
test made by a daring member of our party who managed surrepti- 
tiously to cross the feeder tubes. The Earthian so treated became 
completely paralyzed ; his parasites, by contrast, showed signs of 
extreme agitation, the source of which remains unexplained. 

Although most Earthians thus live on liquid food sucked in 
through tubes, the largest, hence oldest, of the race seem to have 
formed the habit of gulping solid matter with special organs 
sprouted for this purpose. 

Some of the energy derived from intake goes into heat; and more 
than once, we saw it explode in spouts of vapours. The functional 
utility of these geysers is obscure. Some other parts of the energy, 
as noted earlier, is converted into light, and still another part, into 
sound. The volume of this sound grows as the square of population 

Off and on, we noted signs of grooming by a wiping motion, but 
only in front. Astonishingly, this was started and stopped in 
synchrony by all the members of the population, as if they obeyed 
some secret commands. Does this imply that they do have brains ? 

Unquestionably, they do have an organ designed to integrate 
and shape data of information from the outside world into con- 
certed actions— a sort of brain. For we found under their front 

Life on Earth 

operculum a wild profusion of lines and tubes and links, so utterly 
mixed up and tangled that our 'systems analysts' have persuaded 
us of its basic resemblance to a thinking machine much like our 

Life for the Earthian, ends as it must for all living beings, in 
death. Death either comes slowly, heralded by a phase of dis- 
array, unsightly appearance, and frequent breakdowns, or sud- 
denly in a violent noisy disintegration. As you will see, the fast 
kind has deep vital significance. Much as in our own world, the 
corpses are collected in heaps destined, at least in part, for some 
sort of reincarnation. In fact, it was from this source that we 
could gather clues as to the amazing method by which the 
Earthians propagate their kind. It took us an inordinate amount of 
time, effort, and imagination to reconstruct their mode of repro- 
duction. Our conclusions, based pardy on observation, pardy on 
deduction, are these. The Earthians definitely do not reproduce 
by fission or budding. New Earthians are the product of true 
synthesis from elementary nonliving parts which are assembled 
stepwise in an orderly nonrandom sequence— a code. Life comes 


Life on Earth 

into them only at the end of this process. The elementary constitu- 
ents themselves are of uncertain origin. However, a series of 
lucky incidents has made us favour the following theory: 

On several occasions we noted two Earthians, fiercely attracted 
to each other, embrace in a crushing hug, losing their shape, 

vitality— indeed, identity — in the encounter. They evidently gave 
up their individual existence for a higher union. "We could not 
help being mystified by this sacrificial act, till we discovered that 
it marked not an end, but rather a beginning: a renascence. In 
following the fate of the devitalized scraps picked up by other 
Earthians, we saw them vanish in a complex of huge structures 
which spouted fire and coloured smoke and later re-emerge as 
handsomely molded parts, preformed and ready for assembly into 
new Earthians. From this experience, we are convinced that the 
observed crash encounters are truly a mating of two individuals, 
which in loving abandon expunge their lives so that their merged 
substance may be reincarnated in living offspring. At times, a 
considerable lag period separates the act of love and the re- 
processing of its products to new life. 

A rather curious correlation ought to be mentioned in this 
context. It was not at all uncommon for us to find pairs or groups 
of Earthians resting motionless in rather isolated spots. It could 
not escape us that, in the vicinity of such locations, the incidence 
of the described mating collisions was significantly higher. We 
wonder if this is sheer coincidence, or whether perhaps the 
observed phase of quiet togetherness might not be a sort of 
prelude to the mating crash. 


Life on Earth 

We could go on documenting the living nature of these Earth- 
ians still further. However, we rest our case, having proven to 
everybody's satisfaction that they possess at least three of the 
basic attributes of life — metabolism, motility, and reproduction. 
That they are alive cannot be doubted. Being metallic, they might 
conceivably have come from the same primordial stuff as we 
ourselves. If so, they must have evolved at a much slower rate to 
have remained on such a primitive level of behaviour as we 
succeeded in recording. This gives us comfort; for it assures us 
that they could hardly ever come over to our lands to bother us. 
Far from disheartening, the discovery of life on earth has, on the 
contrary, strengthened our faith in our Martian supremacy as the 
unequalled climax of evolution. 

Moreover, by actually witnessing the stepwise assembly of 
Earthians from nonliving scraps, our expedition has once more 
confirmed the brilliant deduction of our chemists, reached long 
ago, that all living matter can be synthesized from scratch. Not 
that we needed confirmation; for have we not known that life, 
wherever in the Universe it may exist, was not created, but has 
originated ? 


The high energy physics colouring book 


From Journal of 
Results 12, 
no 3 (1964). 


This is an experimental curve. 
Theory says there is a peak at 
point B. Colour the peak Red. 


This is an experimental curve. 
Theory says there is no peak at 
point B. Colour the peak Grey. 



This is an experimental curve. 
It is in complete disagreement 
with theory. Colour the error 
bars BLACK. Make them 

C I "I 

This is a spark chamber picture 
An interaction at A produces 
three tracks: ABF, ACG, and 
ADEH. Draw in the tracks. 
Colour them any colours you 
wish and interpret the event. 


The high energy physics colouring book 

These are experimental points 
in a Feynman Diagram. Connect 
the points by appropriate solid, 
dashed, and wavy lines. Colour 
them in a gauge invariant way. 
Calculate the contribution of the 
diagram to all orders and 

These points are experimental 
evidence for a new symmetry 
octet. There is NO time to 
colour this picture. Send it to 
Phys. Rev. Letters right away— 
or to the New York Times. 


Can you find the Intermediate 
Boson in this picture ? 

The Poet, J. Alfred Neutrino 

Who subsisted sublimely on vino, 

With a spin of one-half 

Wrote his own epitaph: 

'No rest-mass, no charge, no bambino . 

Jole Haag 


Snakes and Ladders 


From Orbit, 
Journal of the 
Rutherford High 
December 1963, 
p 10. 

From CERN 
Courier 9 

(July 1969) pan. 

Do-it-yourself CERN Courier writing kit 

We present a 'writing kit' from which the reader himself may 
contruct a large variety of penetrating statements, such as he is 
accustomed to draw from our pages. It is based on the simp 
(Simplified Modular Prose) system developed in the Honeywell 
computer's jargon kit. 

J 39 

Do-it-yourself CERN Courier writing kit 

Take any four digit number— try 1969 for example— and com- 
pose your statement by selecting the corresponding phrases from 
the following tables (1 from Table A, 9 from Table B, etc. . .). 


1. It has to be admitted that 

2. As a consequence of inter-related factors, 

3. Despite appearances to the contrary, 

4. Until such time as fresh insight reverses the present trend, 

5. Using the principle of cause and effect, 

6. Presuming the validity of the present extrapolation, 

7. Without wishing to open Pandora's box, 

8. It is now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that, 

9. Worrying though the present situation may be, 


1 . willy-nilly determination to achieve success 

2. construction of a high-energy accelerator 

3. access to greater financial resources 

4. pursuit of a Nobel prize 

5. bubble chamber physics 

6. a recent computation involving non semi-simple algebra 

7. over-concern with the problems of administration 

8. new measurements of eta zero zero 

9. information presented in CERN COURIER 


1. should only serve to add weight to 

2. will inevitably lead to a refutation of 

3. can yield conclusive information on 

4. might usefully take issue with 

5 . must take into consideration 

6. will sadly mean the end of 

7. ought to stir up enthusiasm for 

8. could result in a confirmation of 

9. deflates the current thinking regarding 


1. the need to acquire further computing capacity. 

2. humanitarian concern with the personnel ceiling. 

3. the Veneziano model. 

4. a design which produces collisions at a later stage. 

5. Macbeth's instruction 'Throw physic to the dogs'. 

6. divergencies in weak interaction theory. 

7. the desire to ensure that certain scientists go far. 

8. bootstraps, conspiracies, poles and dips. 

9. the future of physics in Europe. 


Gulliver's computer 


From Gulliver's We crossed a Walk to the other Part of the Academy, where the 

T r fr? ls ' Pan 111 Projectors in speculative Learning resided. 

Laputa Chapter 5 The first Professor I saw was in a very large Room, with Forty 

(1727). Pupils about him. After Salutation, observing me to look earnesdy 

upon a Frame, which took up the greatest Part of both the Length 
and Breadth of the Room; he said, perhaps I might wonder to see 
him employed in a Project for improving speculative Knowledge 
by practical and mechanical Operations. But the World would 
soon be sensible of its Usefulness ; and he flattered himself, that a 
more noble exalted Thought never sprang in any other Man's 
Head. Every one knew how laborious the usual Method is of 
attaining to Arts and Sciences; whereas by his Contrivance, the 
most ignorant Person at a reasonable Charge, and with a little 
bodily Labour, may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, 
Law, Mathematicks and Theology, without the least Assistance 
from Genius or Study. He then led me to the Frame, about the 
Sides whereof all his Pupils stood in Ranks. It was Twenty Foot 
square, placed in the Middle of the Room. The Superficies was 
composed of several Bits of Wood, about the Bigness of a Dye, but 
some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender 
Wires. These Bits of Wood were covered on every Square with 
Paper pasted on them; and on these Papers were written all the 
Words of their Language in their several Moods, Tenses, and 
Declensions, but without any Order. The Professor then desired 
me to observe, for he was going to set his Engine to work. The 
Pupils at his Command took each of them hold of an Iron Handle, 
whereof there were Forty fixed round the Edges of the Frame; 
and giving them a sudden Turn, the whole Disposition of the 
Words was entirely changed. He then commanded Six and Thirty 
of the Lads to read the several Lines sofdy as they appeared upon 
the Frame ; and where they found three or four Words together 
that might make Part of a Sentence, they dictated to the four 
remaining Boys who were Scribes. This Work was repeated three 
or Four Times, and at every Turn the Engine was so contrived, 
that the Words shifted into new Places, as the square Bits of 
Wood moved upside down. 

Six Hours a-Day the young Students were employed in this 
Labour; and the Professor shewed me several Volumes in large 
Folio already collected, of broken Sentences, which he intended 
to piece together; and out of those rich Materials to give the 
World a compleat Body of all Arts and Sciences; which however 
might be still improved, and much expedited, if the Publick would 


Gulliver's computer 

J J J J J J J J 


raise a Fund for making and employing five Hundred such Frames 
in Lagado, and oblige the Managers to contribute in common their 
several Collections. 

He assured me, that this Invention had employed all his Thoughts 
from his Youth; that he had emptyed the whole Vocabulary into 
his Frame, and made the strictest Computation of the general 
Proportion there is in Books between the Numbers of Particles, 
Nouns, and Verbs, and other Parts of Speech. 



Adapted from the The haiku form is simple— a verse of 17 syllables, divided into 
exhfbilon°c^^- ^ Tee l mes °f nve ) seven and five syllables respectively. The 
netk Serendipity— Western ear should note that the metrical unit is the syllable 
the Computer and (Japanese is a syllabic language) and not, as in Western prosody, 
imelnational 10 ^ e ^ 00t com P ose d °f one or Vwo syllables. The form of 17 syllables 
London io<58p 53; is not chance; it derives from the traditional view of Japanese 
and npl News linguistic philosophy that 17 syllables is the optimum length of 
204,10(1967). human speech to be delivered clearly and coherently in one 

These examples were produced by on-line man-machine inter- 
action at the Cambridge Language Research Unit. The pro- 
gramme provides a frame with 'slots' in which the operator types 
words. His choice is constrained by the lists and arrow directions 
in the thesaurus and diagram. These show that the semantic centre 
of the poem— with five arrows going to it and one going from it- 
is situated at slot 5. 

Slot I Slot 2 Slot 3 
(+4) (+5) (-5) 
(-*5) (-<$) 

Slot 4 Slot 5 Slot 6 
(-M5) (+8) (->2) 

Slot 7 Slot 8 Slot 9 





















Glimpse Pale 

















































Flower Blown 

































































An asterisk indicates a double 
linkage. For the system to be 
computable only one arrow 
must be chosen. 


All green in the leaves 

I smell dark pools in the trees 

Crash the moon has fled 

All white in the buds 

I flash snow peaks in the spring 

Bang the sun has fogged 

All starred in the cold 

I sie^e thin trails in the mist 

Look the moth has gone 

Here are two haiku written by 
human members of the NPL 

Pattern perception 
Is easier to do than 
Cerebrate about 

Don 't design systems 
Of automatic control 
Ride a bicycle 

Textbook selection 


Publishers note the tendency of some teachers to consider prestige 
of a title above the needs of their particular students in the selec- 
tion of a textbook. A former editor of one of the largest publishers 
of technical books tells of this incident. 

'At our main editorial meeting I was describing a new and 
important project at Caltech for which I wanted to offer a con- 
tract, and stated that the tide of the book was to be Elementary 
Particle Theory. Hearing this, the Vice President in charge of our 
International Division, ever mindful of the foreign demand for 
high level books, then told me that if I could suggest that the 
authors remove the word 'Elementary' from the title, he would be 
able to sell another thousand copies in the international market.' 


Computer, B.Sc. (failed) 


Adapted from the 
catalogue of an 
exhibition Cyber- 
netic Serendipity — 
the Computer and 
the Arts Studio 
London, 1968 

In i960, physics students were still asked to write essays in Eng- 
lish, but this procedure was not without its critics. A senior member 
of the Physics Department at Manchester once remarked— in a 
moment of cynicism— that he did not think that students ever 
really learned the concepts of physics. All they learned (he said) 
was a vocabulary of okay words for essay-writing, which they 
strung together in arbitrary order, relying on the fact that an 
examiner pressed for time would not actually read what they had 
written but would scan down the pages looking for these words. 
He did not mean to be taken very seriously but it struck me that 
we could test this hypothesis. 

I produced a computer program— novel for those days— which 
was an elaborate version of the 'CERN Courier Kit' (page 139). 
There were alternative paths between the groups of words and 
quite complicated grammatical constructions could be incorpora- 
ted, but the associations of phrase with phrase were pretty ran- 
dom and indeed I called them 'High Entropy Essays'. Eventually, 
I got in touch with a colleague at another university. About a 
week before a first-year exam, he sent me some question papers 
together with a suitable false name and one of the special books 
for writing the answers in; it was all done very secretively. To 
answer the questions, I wrote suitable random vocabularies. 
The computer churned out its nonsense and I copied it into 
the book . . . The script was eventually slipped in among the 
genuine ones. In fact, it was marked by a conscientious examiner 
who read every word and stormed into the Director's office 
shouting 'Who the hell is this man ? Why did we ever admit him ?' 
So the hypothesis about students' learning was proved incorrect. 

Here is one question and answer. Three different vocabularies 
about the standard meter and interferometry were used. 

question: Describe one method by which the wavelength of a 
spectral line has been compared with the standard metre. 

answer: The standard metre which since 1700 has been deter- 
mined by accurate instruments is a lump of metal at the Quai 
d'Orsay. The substandard metre by agreement has been deter- 
mined in spite of difficulties and by agreement the unit length is a 
metal mass of low expansion coefficient. The position of the 
scratches can be measured microscopically. The dispersion can 
be correlated with multiple reflections and the fringe width is 
optimized with large apertures. The resolving power which in- 
creases usually with a coherent source is limited by the ratio 


Computer, B.Sc. (failed) 

dA/A while the dispersion which can be correlated with the ratio 
dA/A sometimes depends on the number of lines per inch. In all 
cases the resolving power is determined by the number of lines 
per inch. The fringe width becomes maximized with long optical 
path differences. The optical constants determine the flexibility. 
The path length enters as in the vector diagram. Nowadays the 
fringe width enters, as in Newton's rings and following Michelson 
the fringe width plays an essential role. It limits the stability as 
a standard while the monochromaticity obviously defines the need 
for good contrast. 

Collective names in basic sciences 


A pile of nuclear physicists 
A grid of electrical engineers 
A set of pure mathematicians 
A field of theoretical physicists 
An amalgamation of metallurgists 
A line of spectroscopists 
A coagulation of colloid chemists 
A galaxy of cosmologists 
A cloud of theoretical meteorologists 
A shower of applied meteorologists 
A litter of geneticists 
A knot of nautical engineers 
A labyrinth of communication engineers 
An exhibition of Nobel prize winners 
An intrigue of council members 
A dissonance of faculty members 
A stack of librarians 
A chain of security officers 
A complex of psychologists 
A wing of ornithologists 
A batch of fermentation chemists 
A colony of bacteriologists 

From Journal of 
Results 14, 4 



The Chaostron. An important advance 
in learning machines 


Condensed from [One of the most interesting directions of computer research is to see 
J ZdudbkResult s Whether 

a computer can be made to learn to solve problems. This account 
10 ^"(ipfii) U °f some ear ty experiments — reported in 1961 from the Bell Telephone 
Laboratories although apparently none of the authors were known em- 
ployees of that organisation — started from the observation that animals, 
when set a mechanical problem to solve, usually begin by performing 
purely random actions for a considerable time and then find the solution 
quite by accident. This seems to be their learning process. This provided 
the basis for the Chaostron experiments] 

The authors feel strongly that the key to successful automation of 
learning tasks lies in randomization of the response patterns of the 
machine. The failure of various previous attempts in this direction, 
we feel, has been due to two problems: first, the difficulty of 
getting a sufficient degree of randomness built into the structure 
of the machine, and second, the expense of creating a device large 
enough to exhibit behaviour not significantly influenced by the 
operation of any one of its components. We are deeply indebted 
to Dr R Morgan for a suggestion which showed us the way out 
of these difficulties : design for the Chaostron was done by taking 
14 000 Western Electric wiring charts, cutting them into two-inch 
squares, and having them thoroughly shaken up in a large sack, 
then glued into sheets of appropriate size by a blindfolded worker. 
Careful checks were made during this process, and statistical tests 
were made on its output to insure against the propagation of 
unsuspected regularities. 

Simulation experiments 

Unfortunately, we have not, as yet, been able to complete the 
wiring of Chaostron. We felt, however, that it should be possible 
to estimate the effectiveness of Chaostron even before its com- 
pletion by simulating it on a high speed digital computer. This 
procedure had the further advantage of attracting the interest of 
representatives of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts of the 
US Navy, who found in Chaostron an excellent aid to control 
of the Navy's spare parts inventory. The Navy, as a result, was 
generous enough to offer time on a BuShips computer for the 
simulation of Chaostron. 

The computer of choice for the simulation runs was the IBM 
STRETCH machine which not only operates at very high speed, 
but is also able to accept input programs coded in YAWN 
language, which closely resembles colloquial English. We felt it 


The Chaostron. An important advance in learning machines 

very important to use a source language for simulation programs 
which would contain as much ambiguity as ordinary speech, 
since undue precision in the simulation programs might acci- 
dentally 'tip off' the machine as to the nature of the desired solu- 

In the event, it was not possible to obtain a STRETCH compu- 
ter for the project, and so simulation was done by simulating 
STRETCH simulating Chaostron on an IBM 704. All simulation 
runs were conducted in essentially similar universes of environ- 
ments; the computer was presented with a sequence of circles, 
squares and crosses represented by punched cards, and was re- 
quired to print, after examining each stimulus, one of the words 
'circle,' 'square' or 'cross'. No reinforcement from the experi- 
menter was provided, since it was feared that such reinforcement 
would bias the learning process, and thus vitiate the validity of any 
conclusions we might wish to draw from the results. 

The first trials were run with the input stimuli represented on 
the punched cards as geometric patterns of punching in the 
appropriate shapes. As a control, one run was made with no 
stored program initially in the machine to check that the learning 
rate of the untutored machine was not so great as to interfere 
with further studies. For this run, the machine memory was 
cleared, the cards containing patterns were placed in the card 
reader, and the load card button was pressed. After three hours 
the machine had not printed its response to the first input pattern; 
evidently the rate of learning under these conditions is very low 
(we judge it to be of the order of io -6 concepts per megayear). 

Therefore we proceeded with the main series of experiments, in 
which a random program was loaded into the computer ahead of 
each batch of data cards. A total of 133 random programs were 
tried in random sequence. Even in this series of experiments the 
machine took a surprisingly long time to respond to the stimuli; in 
most cases the run had to be terminated before the first response 
occurred. However, on run number 73, the computer responded 

***/AX$, )U„„. 

to the first stimulus card (which was a square); on run 114 the 
computer responded 


to every stimulus; and on run 131 the computer ejected the printer 
paper twice. 



Unfortunately, budget difficulties forced us to abandon this ap- 
proach after 133 trials, in spite of the promising appearance of the 
early results. Thus, our conclusions are perforce based on a smaller 
data sample than we would like. Nonetheless, certain points are 

1. The correlative reinforcement model of learning advanced by 
Dewlap et al is untenable in view of our results. No triphasic 
system could function without a degree of organization exceeding 
that which we have used in the simulation studies. Even this 
degree of structure, however, resulted in extremely slow response 
to comparatively simple stimuli. 

2. It seems evident that further understanding of machine learning 
requires resynthesis in operational terms of the conceptual frame- 
work provided by the Liebwald-Schurstein-Higgins suggestion 
that memory traces are renewed by associative stochastic in- 
crements to ideometric pathways shared by stimulus-coupled 
functional elements. 

3. Not only is machine learning possible, but in fact it occurs under 
conditions of considerable difficulty. Indeed, it appears that even 
the simplest machines have a great amount of innate 'curiosity' 
(where by 'curiosity', of course, we do not mean to imply that 
anthropomorphic categories or judgments should be applied to 
machines, but merely that the machines have a desire to learn). 

Our acknowledgements and thanks are due to Mr J B Puffader, 
for his assistance in the detailed design of Chaostron, and to Mr 
V A Vyssotsky for manually simulating the 704 simulating 
STRETCH simulating Chaostron, to complete run 133 after the 
budget funds ran out. 

From The Dry Rot 
of our Academic 
Biology, by 
W M Wheeler, 
Science 57 
pp 61-71 (1923)- 

Many of us coddle our graduate students till the more impression- 
able of them develop the most sodden types of the father-complex. 
Some of us even wear out a layer of cortical neurones annually, 
correcting their spelling and syntax. One fussy old guru of my 
acquaintance has destroyed both of his hemispheres, his corpus 
callosum and a large part of his basal ganglia hunting stray com- 
mas, semicolons, dashes, parentheses and other vermin in doctors' 


Physics is too young 

From Philosophy \William IVhewell was an active scientist, one of the first philosophers of 
"sciences vol 'sT cmd. an enlightened reformer of university education at Cambridge. 

book 13 (1847) Nevertheless he divided the sciences into permanent and progressive ones, 
to the detriment of the latter. Mathematics and Newton's mechanics were 
permanent while new-fangled geology and chemistry were liable to reinter- 
pretation ('There is nothing old, nothing stable'). They should therefore 
be excluded from the University curriculum. Whewell was saying this in 
1 843; as a result the first professor of physics was not appointed in 
Cambridge till 1874.] 

We may assert in general that no Ideas are suited to become the 
elements of elementary education, till they have not only become 
perfectly distinct and fixed in the minds of the leading cultivators 
of the science to which they belong; but till they have been so for 
some considerable period. The entire clearness and steadiness of 
view which is essential to sound science, must have time to extend 
itself to a wide circle of disciples. The views and principles which 
are detected by the most profound and acute philosophers, are 
soon appropriated by all the most intelligent and active minds of 
their own and of the following generations; and when this has 
taken place (and not till then), it is right, by a proper constitution 
of our liberal education, to extend a general knowledge of such 
principles to all cultivated persons. And it follows, from this view 
of the matter, that we are by no means to be in haste to adopt, into 
our course of education, all new discoveries as soon as they are 
made. They require some time, in order to setde into their proper 
place and position in men's minds, and to show themselves under 
their true aspects; and till this is done, we confuse and disturb, 
rather than enlighten and unfold, the ideas of learners, by intro- 
ducing the discoveries into our elementary instruction. Hence it 
was perhaps reasonable that a century should elapse from the 
time of Galileo before the rigorous teaching of mechanics became 
a general element of intellectual training; and the doctrine of 
universal gravitation was hardly ripe for such an employment till 
the end of the last century. We must not direct the unformed youth- 
ful mind to launch its little bark upon the waters of speculation, till 
all the agitation of discovery, with its consequent fluctuation and 
controversy, has well subsided. 


Yes, Virginia 

Adapted from 
American Journal 
of Physics 33, 

[Every American knows that in lSgy a young girl wrote a letter to the 
Editor of the New York Sun: 

Dear Editor: 
I am 8 years old. 

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
Papa says 'If you see it in "The Sun" it's so.' 
Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus ? 
li5 Wests 5th Street, New York City. 

The Editor replied: 'Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus . . . and the 
letters have been reprinted each Christmas season ever since. 

In 1964, Vernet E Eaton of Wesleyan University spoke on 'The Demon- 
stration Lecture as an Art'. The lecturer had apparently received a letter 
from Virginia 's granddaughter (also called Virginia) and had replied 
to it.] 

Dear Professor Eaton: 

I am 18 years old and a Freshman at Marsupial State College. I am 
disturbed about our physics course. Although we have finished 
mechanics, so far we have had no demonstrations and have seen 
no apparatus. 

My classmates are not disturbed. They boast that when they 
grew up they quit playing with toys and that I should not cry 
when my toys are taken away. They claim that acceleration is a 
second derivative and we should not confuse the issue by bring- 
ing in carts and falling bodies. According to them angular 
momentum is a vector and we should not worry about turning 

My father is a loyal Wesleyan man and believes you are always 
right. He has agreed that if you say that my classmates are wrong 
I may transfer to Empirica University where demonstrations play 
an important part in the learning process. 
Very truly yours, 


Dear Virginia: 

Your classmates are wrong. Although they think they are being 
modern, it seems to me that they are living in ancient Greece 
where manual work and manipulation was delegated to slaves 
while free men talked and figured. 

No matter how convincing the proof, no theory becomes a law 
until it has been tested by experiment. Have you read Aristode's 


Yes, Virginia 

convincing proof that heavy bodies fall faster than light bodies ? 
This illustrates how easy it is to prove something that isn't true and 
of course Galileo showed how a simple experiment may point out 
the fallacy. Even Maxwell's brilliant work was not accepted until 
Hertz proved in the laboratory that electromagnetic waves do 
exist. Remind your classmates that Maxwell provided the theory 
and mathematical rigour but Hertz put us in the driver's seat. 

Some seem to feel that once they have written the Hamiltonian 
the job is done. I suspect they imagine that eating consists of con- 
suming differential equations and they go on a diet by changing 
the upper limit of the integral. Some go so far as to claim that 
since the results are based primarily on shape and curvature, 
beauty contests should be decided on the basis of the constants 
in a Fourier series. Please do not conclude that mathematical 
rigour and sound logic are not important. They are extremely 
important. Mathematics is a necessary but not sufficient tool for 
understanding nature. 

"Would this not be a dreary world without apparatus to talk to 
us. Like music and art and nature, however, it speaks to us in a 
language without words and not everybody understands this 

I will be glad to recommend you to Empirica U. 
Very truly yours, 


Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut 

From Physicists 
continue to laugh 
MIR Publishing 
House, Moscow 
1968. Translated 
from the Russian 
by Mrs Lorraine 
T KapitanofT. 

Once in Russia, in a physics exam, the professor wrote the 

E =k» 

and asked a student : 

'What is v?' 
'Planck's constant.' 
'And ft?' 

'The length of the plank.' 

[Astonishingly, this is translated directly from the Russian.] 


How to learn 


From The 
Complete Works 
of Lewis Carroll. 
(London: The 
Press) 1939 
pp 1 1 16—19. 

[The Lorent£ contraction and spatial transforms seem to be detectable in 
Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass'. Reciprocally, when the Rev. 
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote on mathematics and logic it was not 
without whimsy, as evidenced by the following. In any case, it is excellent 
advice on how to read a textbook.} 

The learner, who wishes to try the question fairly, whether this 
little book does, or does not, supply the materials for a most 
interesting mental recreation, is earnestly advised to adopt the 
following Rules : 

1. Begin at the beginning, and do not allow yourself to gratify a 
mere idle curiosity by dipping into the book, here and there. This 
would very likely lead to your throwing it aside, with the remark 
'This is much too hard for me!', and thus losing the chance of 
adding a very large item to your stock of mental delights . . . 

2. Don't begin any fresh Chapter, or Section, until you are certain 
that you thoroughly understand the whole book up to that point, 
and that you have worked, correctly, most if not all of the 
examples which have been set . . . Otherwise, you will find 
your state of puzzlement get worse and worse as you proceed, 
till you give up the whole thing in utter disgust. 

3. When you come to a passage you don't understand, read it 
again : if you still don't understand it, read it again : if you fail, even 
after three readings, very likely your brain is getting a little tired. 
In that case, put the book away, and take to other occupations, 
and next day, ^hen you come to it fresh, you will very likely 
find that it is quite "easy. 

4. If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along 
with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a 
wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When / come upon any- 
thing—in Logic or in any other hard subject— that entirely puzzles 
me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am 
all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one's self! And then, 
you know, one is so patient with one's self : one never gets irritated 
at one's own stupidity ! 

If, dear Reader, you will faithfully observe these Rules, and so 
give my litde book a really fair trial, I promise you, most confi- 
dently, that you will find Symbolic Logic to be one of the most, if 
not the most, fascinating of mental recreations ! In this First Part, 
I have carefully avoided all difficulties which seemed to me to be 
beyond the grasp of an intelligent child of (say) twelve or fourteen 
years of age. I have myself taught most of its contents, viva voce, 
to many children, and have found them take a real intelligent 

1 53 

How to learn 

interest in the subject. For those, who succeeded in mastering 
Part I, and who begin, like Oliver, 'asking for more,' I hope to 
provide, in Part II, some tolerably hard nuts to crack— nuts that 
will require all the nut-crackers they happen to possess ! 

Mental recreation is a thing that we all of us need for our mental 
health. Symbolic Logic will give you clearness of thought— the 
ability to see your way through a puzzle— the habit of arranging 
your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form— and, more valuable 
than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the 
flimsy illogical arguments, which you will continually encounter 
in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and 
which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble 
to master this fascinating Art Try it. That is all I ask of you ! 

The nature of evidence 


From The Conflict [Writing in 18J3, the mathematician Isaac Todhunter had a poor opinion 
of Studies and 0 j Experimental Philosophy, which was then being introduced into 
(Macmillan) 1873 Cambridge teaching. In particular he despised practical classes.] 

We assert that if the resistance of the air be withdrawn a sovereign 
and a feather will fall through equal spaces in equal times. Very 
great credit is due to the person who first imagined the well- 
known experiment to illustrate this; but it is not obvious what is 
the special benefit now gained by seeing a lecturer repeat the 
process. It may be said that a boy takes more interest in the matter 
by seeing for himself, or by performing for himself, that is by 
working the handle of the air-pump: this we admit, while we 
continue to doubt the educational value of the transaction. The 
boy would also probably take much more interest in foot-ball than 
in Latin grammar; but the measure of his interest is not identical 
with that of the importance of the subjects. It may be said that the 
fact makes a stronger impression on the boy through the medium 
of his sight, that he believes it the more confidently. I say that this 
ought not to be the case. If he does not believe the statements of 
his tutor— probably a clergyman of mature knowledge, recognized 
ability, and blameless character— his suspicion is irrational, and 
manifests a want of the power of appreciating evidence, a want 
fatal to his success in that branch of science which he is supposed 
to be cultivating. 


School leaving exam 

[For the first time in 1 858, Oxford and Cambridge Universities con- 
ducted public examinations, called School Leaving Examinations for 
junior and senior candidates, which could be taken at a number of local 
centres. From these originals are descended today's Ordinary and Advanced 
levels of the General Certificate of Education — the two hurdles which 
almost every English schoolboy physicist must surmount. 

In the very first 'Oxford local' junior examination, there was a paper on 
Mechanics and the Mechanism of the Steam Engine: a total of 29 ques- 
tions of which the candidates were expected to attempt not more than 
ten '. Here are some.] 

9. In a screw press, the screw has 4 threads to the inch, the power 
is applied at a distance of 14 inches from the axis of the screw, 
and the surface pressed is 1 10 square inches. Find (approximately) 
what power must be applied to produce a pressure of 1 lb to the 
square inch ? 

13. A bow is stretched until the tension of the string just equals the 
pulling force. What is the angle between the two parts of the 
string ? 

21. What causes the puffing noise of a locomotive engine? If 4 
puffs be heard in a second, and the circumference of the driving 
wheel be 22 feet, how many miles an hour is the train going ? 

[On the Natural Philosophy paper of the senior Examination, all the 
questions were descriptive with no calculations. There were 2 5 on the 
paper, candidates being 'recommended not to attempt many of the questions, 
but to select a few which they may be able to answer correctly. ' Here are 

3. What is said to be the velocity of light? How was it first 
deduced by Romer, and subsequently confirmed by Bradley? 
Explain fully their observations, and the deductions from these 
observations. How far would they shew the similarity of the nature 
of light when derived from different sources ? Do you know in 
what countries and at what date Romer and Bradley lived ? Do 
all kinds of sounds travel with equal velocities? Prove your 
answer, and mention any facts you know as to the velocity with 
which they traverse different media. How did Wheatstone try to 
deduce the velocity of electricity ? How much did his experiment 
really prove ? What circumstances practically affect the velocity 
of electricity, and at what rate is it found to travel in practice ? 
Does its velocity depend upon the intensity of the battery from 
which it is produced ? Compare the laws which seem to regulate 
the velocities of light, sound, and electricity. 


School leaving exam 

12. What is the distinction between the momentum of a body and 
its 'vis viva ?' Supposing an anvil or large stone to be placed on a 
man's chest, explain fully all the reasons why a blow with a 
hammer on the stone or anvil will do him no injury. 

Where to hold nuclear spectroscopy 
conferences in Russia 

From the ITEP l n the immediate future it will prove more and more difficult to 
"nJs^K/ra^s^ se l ect places for holding meetings. Before giving some kind of 
advice about this we would like to get one thing clear: are these 
meetings arranged with lofty scientific aims or are they purely for 
entertainment ? At present this is not obvious to us. If it turns out 
that we meet annually so as to enjoy these ten days, then let us 
abolish those boring reports and tiresome excursions and transfer 
the meetings to summertime. 

But if it appears to us that the meetings are after all for science 
then it is necessary to organize them differently so that nothing 
will distract the participants from their main task. In this case it is 
possible to recommend the following places for holding meetings. 

1. Congress cave in the Urals. To conduct meetings on nuclear 
spectroscopy in caves is very useful since the background of 
ionizing radiation is very low. Congress cave in this respect is 
especially good since it is icy and the natural level of radioactivity 
in it must be lower than usual. The constant low temperature in 
the cave will promote liveliness in the participants and completely 
exclude sleepiness even during review reports. 

2. The valley of geysers on Kamchatka. A very warm little place. 
Unusual phenomena of nature — geysers — will evoke in the parti- 
cipants the desire to speculate on various scientific themes, per- 
haps including nuclear spectroscopy. The ground here trembles a 
little all the time which will also hinder sleep during the sessions. 
At the same time it is possible to solve the problem of keeping to 
time, by placing the reporter's lectern over a geyser which oper- 
ates regularly every five minutes. 

3. The atomic ice-breaker 'Lenin'. This is unnecessary to describe; 
it is clear that nuclear spectroscopy has a direct relationship to it. 
It is advisable to hire the ice breaker at a time after it has broken 
all the ice in the Arctic and is heading towards the Southern 


Typical examination questions as a guide 
to graduate students studying for prelims 



A particle moves in the potential well V(r) = e _r //' 12 

(a) Show that the solution of this problem tells nothing about 
the binding energy of the deuteron. 

(b) Discuss the asymptotic behaviour of the solution as 
12 -»■ oo 


List all elementary particles which have not yet been discovered, 
giving mass, charge, spin, isotopic spin, strangeness, and the 
reason why they have not yet been observed. Discuss the changes 
which will be necessary in current theories as each one is dis- 


A clock is placed on a rotating table. As the speed of rotation is 
increased, the clock flies to pieces. Discuss the angular distri- 
bution of the fragments and show how this allows one to calcu- 
late the spin and parity of the clock. 


(a) Write the Schrodinger Equation for an undergraduate 
taking Elementary Physics. Develop the appropriate operators 
for the description of the system, including the pass-flunk 
operator which has the eigenvalue +1 if the student passes the 
course and —1 if he flunks. Show that the student's state at the 
end of the term is always an eigenstate of this operator. 

(b) Show that if all undergraduates were transformed into 
Hilbert Space it would be a good thing. 


(a) Discuss the behaviour under space inversion, charge con- 
jugation and time reversal of the Schrodinger equation H<P = E<P . 
Note that under space inversion this equation becomes $3 =$>H. 
Discuss the implications of this property in proving the existence 
of solutions of the Schrodinger equation. 

(b) Discuss the behaviour of the Dirac Equation under 
rotation : 

(i) when the blackboard upon which the equation is written is 

(ii) when the physicist studying the equation is rotated. 

From Journal of 
Results 7, 12 


Typical examination questions as a guide to graduate students 


A nickeleon enters a cokemachine nucleus. Discuss the relative 
probabilities of the following reactions: 

(a) An (n,c) reaction ( = nickeleon in, cocacolon out) 

(b) Absorption ( = nickeleon in, nothing out) 

(c) Elastic scattering (n,n) ( = nickeleon in, nickeleon out) 

(d) An (n,2n) reaction ( = nickeleon in, two nickeleons out) 

(e) An (n,p) reaction ( = nickeleon in, penniton out) 

(f) An (n,d,) reaction ( = nickeleon in, dimeteron out) 
Consider also the effect of selection rules, depending upon the 
spin of the nickeleon, and of perturbations, such as banging or 
tilting the machine. 


A pair of twins, named Bingle and Dingle, are separated at 
birth, and Dingle is sent off to a distant star, at a velocity of 
0-999 c and returns. Discuss the relative ages of Bingle and 
Dingle, taking into account the following effects: 

(a) Bingle and Dingle exchange light signals continuously 
during the trip 

(b) At the turning point (vortex) of Bingle's journey, he emits 
a virtual pion which then creates a Dingle-Anti-Dingle Pair. 
The Anti-Dingle returns to earth and annihilates the original 
Dingle, while the remaining Bingle and Dingle remain on the 
distant star and live happily ever after. 


A beam of optically-pumped polarized rubidium atoms is 
passed through a homogeneous magnetic field and a radio 
frequency field. This is followed by a passage through a thin foil 
of magnetized iron and an adiabatic fast passage through an 
inhomogeneous electric field, two mutually perpendicular gravi- 
tational fields, a radio frequency scalar meson field, and a wheat 

(a) Why? 

(b) Describe an experiment to measure Planck's constant 
using the most expensive equipment possible. 


Discuss the properties of a system of strongly interacting phy- 
sicists coupled to a high energy accelerator. Give particular 
attention to the following points : 


(a) The independent physicist model (stay-in-the-shell-model) 

(b) The collective model 

(c) Pairing correlations and quasi-physicists 

(d) Linked clusters 

(e) Seniority 

(/) Fractional Parentage 

(g) Acceleration in real and virtual states 


Explain the relativistic East-West effect in superconductivity. 
Show by the use of the Leningrangian formalism that a trans- 
formation exists by which an Eastern theory which has occurred 
later than a Western theory can be made to antedate the Western 


Explain the multiple production of strange articles in unclear 
physics appearing on the non-physical region of the Physical 
Review. Show that the principle of causality allows the complete 
prediction of results which are in good agreement with experi- 
ment until the experiment is performed. Using the formal theory 
of scattering, discuss the validity of (a) the impulse approxima- 
tion, (b) the Born approximation, (c) the Unborn approxima- 
tion. Show that clarity of the Physical Review increases exponen- 
tially with the number of articles which are left in the Unborn 

Big Science and Lesser Sciences 

From 'Memories 
of Rutherford' in 
Rutherford at 
Manchester ed 
J B Birks (Lon- 
don: Hey wood) 


His prestige was such that even a joke from Rutherford's mouth 
was apt to become a dogma in lesser men's minds. No very young 
physicist could be totally unaffected by his famous crack: 'All 
science is either physics or stamp collecting', or by the often 
implied assumption that it only needed some further progress in 
physics to allow us to deduce from first and physical principles the 
facts and laws of the lesser sciences like chemistry. 


Oral examination procedure 


From Proceedings l n these brief notes the purposes of an oral examination are set 
1956*/ 6^s' ^" ort ^ an< ^ practical rules for conducting one are given. Careful 
attention to the elementary rules is necessary in order to assure a 
truly successful examination. From the standpoint of each indivi- 
dual examiner the basic purposes of the oral examination are : to 
make that examiner appear smarter and trickier than either the 
examinee or the other examiners, thereby preserving his self 
esteem, and to crush the examinee, thereby avoiding the messy 
and time-wasting problem of post-examination judgment and 

Both of these aims can be realized through diligent application 
of the following time-tested rules: 

1 . Before beginning the examination, make it clear to the examinee 
that his whole professional career may turn on his performance. 
Stress the importance and formality of the occasion. Put him in 
his proper place at the outset. 

2. Throw out your hardest question first. (This is very important. 
If your first question is sufficiently difficult or involved, he will be 
too rattled to answer subsequent questions, no matter how simple 
they may be.) 

3. Be reserved and stern in addressing the examinee. For contrast, 
be very jolly with the other examiners. A very effective device is 
to make humorous comments to the other examiners about the 
examinee's performance, comments which tend to exclude him 
and set him apart, as though he were not present in the room. 

4. Make him answer each problem your way, especially if your 
way is esoteric. Constrain him. Impose many limitations and 
qualifications in each question. The idea is to complicate an other- 
wise simple problem. 

5. Force him into a trivial error and then let him puzzle over it 
for as long as possible. Just after he sees his mistake but just before 
he has a chance to explain it, correct him yourself, disdainfully. 
This takes real perception and timing, which can only be acquired 
with some practice. 

6. When he finds himself deep in a hole, never lead him out. 
Instead, sigh, and shift to a new subject. 

7. Ask him snide questions, such as, 'Didn't you learn that in 
Freshman Calculus ?' 

8. Do not permit him to ask you clarifying questions. Never repeat 


or clarify your own statement of the problem. Tell him not to 
think out loud, what you want is the answer. 

9. Every few minutes, ask him if he is nervous. 

10. Station yourself and the other examiners so that the examinee 
can not really face all of you at once. This enables you to bracket 
him with a sort of binaural crossfire. Wait until he turns away from 
you toward someone else, and then ask him a short direct ques- 
tion. With proper coordination among the examiners it is possible 
under favorable conditions to spin the examinee through several 
complete revolutions. This has the same general effect as item 2 

11. Wear dark glasses. Inscrutability is unnerving. 

12. Terminate the examination by telling the examinee, 'Don't 
call us; we will call you.' 

Fluorescent yield 


There was an electron in gold 
Who said, 'Shall I do as I'm told? 
Shall I snuggle down tight 
With a brief flash of light 
Or be Auger outside in the cold?' 

But there are many possibilities and equally many poems. On 
internal conversion, for instance : 

Said a K-shell electron in gold, 

'I m thinking of leaving the fold 

To be hit like a hammer 

By an outgoing gamma. 

In freedom I'll live till I'm old. 

Or even on electron capture: 

Said the K-shell electron in gold, 

'I wonder if I might be bold, 

And make a slight shift 

From this circular drift 

And change this damned atom to platinum* 




Condensed from 
'Elements of 
ship, ' Proceedings 
of the International 
Conference on 
Nuclear Structure, 
Kingston, Canada. 
and University of 
Toronto Press 
1960) pp 906-12. 

My present communication is torn from its proper context of 
Conferencemanship of which it is merely one, and not the most 
important, of the many facets. I shall have no opportunity to en- 
large upon, for example, 'How to mention your collaborators 
without actually giving them any credit' or upon 'How to dis- 
credit your rival's theory and experimental technique without 
understanding either.' 

Slidesmanship has three main divisions. Of the third, 'The sub- 
jugation of your personal adversary' I am not permitted to speak. 
The other two are 'The subjugation of the projectionist' and 'The 
subjugation of the audience.' 

It is the Slidesman's task to wrest the apparent initiative from 
the projectionist and to reduce him to a nervous pulp. It is 
important for the Slidesman to know when he has succeeded, 
because only then can he turn his full attention to his audience, 
which is, after all, his major task. Since the projectionist is usually 
invisible it is a little tricky to be sure when he has been pulped 
but I myself find it quite satisfactory to continue until his gibber- 
ing is clearly audible. 

I do not recommend to any but the veriest tyros crude and vul- 
gar techniques such as the intimate interleaving of 35 mm and 
regular size slides, or even the use of the once-popular pentagonal 
slide. A satisfactory beginning for the more aspiring is the '3-2-1' 
technique. It exploits the fact that the projectionist always loads 
up the first two slides when the chairman announces the talk so he 
can snap one on to the screen as soon as the speaker says 'First 
. . .' and follow like a machine gun with the second if need be. 
The Slidesman therefore begins: 'Third slide please' and is well 
away. (It is elementary to note that this should be followed by the 
second slide and then by the first slide in rapid succession.) 

Another useful technique, best practiced in conjunction with the 
first, is the 'White Dot Shift.' All slides are of course marked with 
a white dot in one corner in which the projectionist places his 
right thumb to ensure the correct orientation of the slide in the 
slide holder. The present technique is to mark your first slides in 
an irregular corner thereby ensuring faulty projection. Combined 
with the foregoing '3-2-1' technique the 'White Dot Shift' makes 
a devastating beginning. It would, however, count as merely 
crude (if effective) but for a further development, aimed both at 
the projectionist and the audience, that it makes possible. This is 
for the Slidesman to show puzzlement at the continuing confusion 
and then for light suddenly to dawn: 'Oh! I'm frightfully sorry 


about those slides being marked in an unusual way,' he calls to 
the projectionist, 'You see I always take my own projectionist with 
me to important conferences' then as an afterthought 'And he's 
left-handed.' Finally: 'But don't worry, it's only the first few that 
are like that.' 

This should immediately be followed by a 'Parity-Non-Con- 
serving Slide' which does not project correctly no matter how 
placed in the projector. There are many ways of constructing such 
slides. The simplest and at the same time the subtlest is to letter 
the slide with letters which are individually the right way round 
but with the words running from right to left. 

Communications direct to the projectionist are always good and 
should be made in such a manner that it is not immediately clear 
whether the Slidesman is addressing the projectionist or the 
audience. Absurd complication in the instructions must be 
avoided. The Slidesman uses something like: 'After the next slide 
but two I shall want to look again at the last one but four.' After 
the next slide: 'I meant of course that slide which was then going 
to be the last one but four after I had indeed had that which was 
going to be the next but two, not that which was then the last 
but four.' Follow this by skipping one slide. 

These are elementary techniques but should suffice for most 
projectionists. Occasionally resistance is offered in which case 
slighdy more advanced methods are available of which I shall 
mention only two. 

The first in the 'Unfocussable Slide.' This consists of two iden- 
tical glass sheets, each bearing the Figure, that are fixed in precise 
registration with each other by a small amount of low-melting- 
point wax. After a short time on the screen the heat of the projec- 
tion lamp melts the wax and one sheet slips about a millimetre 
relative to the other thereby throwing the Figure out of vertical 
focus. The Slidesman's sharp cry of 'Focus, please' rouses the 
projectionist to frantic, vain and incredulous efforts. The Slides- 
man's advice of 'No, no, focus it up and down, not side to side' 
produces a useful effect. 

A second advanced technique I have named 'Groshev's Blank 
Pair' in honour of a great Soviet Slidesman to whose inspiration I 
owe this important development. It consists of two successive 
perfectly blank slides. These come at the end of a run of slides 
that have been taken in very rapid succession, producing an 
exhausting and hypnotic effect upon the projectionist. Suddenly 
the run comes to an end and the projectionist, after loading up the 

BWS - G 


next slide as usual, returns with thankfulness to the biting of his 
nails. However the slide that he projected in response to the last 
urgent 'New slide please' was in fact the first of the two per- 
fectly blank ones and the second blank slide is now of course also 
safely loaded up in the slide holder. After several seconds comes 
the Slidesman's icy 'I said "Next slide please'" and the projec- 
tionist sees to his horror that, although he put a slide in and shoved 
it across, nothing has come onto the screen. He knows he put in a 
slide; he must then, by some aberration, have taken out the last 
but one projected slide without replacing it, projected the unfilled 
holder and replaced instead the last projected slide with the one 
that should now be showing but in fact is waiting to be shoved 
across. With a muffled cry and on the third repetition of 'I am stili 
waiting for the next slide' the projectionist slams over the slide 
holder. The fourth repetition of 'I am still waiting . . .'coincides 
with the projectionist's first bubbling moan. Although his vision 
is now clouding he knows how to reassure himself of his sanity. 
Back again he slams the slide holder, and, his world at stake, 
thrusts his finger straight at the middle of the second blank slide 
to verify its tangible existence. Now there is a large hole in the 
centre of the second blank slide. The slide is little more than a rim. 
The moan swells to full gibber. With the last vestige of his reason 
the projectionist seizes the next slide in the box and tries to ram it 
into the holder already occupied by the second blank slide. 

So much for the projectionist. I now turn to the more important 
problem of the audience. This is a far subder matter. The Slides- 
man's objective is, of course, to convey, effortlessly, to the 
members of the audience, his transcendence and superiority over 
them. This is the full field of Conferencemanship and I must 
repeat how much I regret that I am unable to introduce all 
aspects of this study. A guiding principle of Conferencemanship 
is to conceal from the audience what you are talking about. The 
Conferenceman as Slidesman must equally conceal what his 
slides are about. It should, however, be all but clear that what- 
ever the slides are about it is not what the talk is about, whatever 
that is. The general malaise that this engenders is helped by 
remarks such as: 'This same point is made diagrammatically in 
the next slide.' 

The only exception to this rule is when the Slidesman is using 
the 'Time Lapse' technique which is very disturbing. In this the 
Slidesman says very clearly something extremely simple and 
extremely lucid as he shows a very simple slide. He then says he 


wishes to point out the veiy sharp distinction between that situ- 
ation and the following one. The next slide is precisely the same 
as its predecessor and the Slidesman says precisely the same thing 
as before. This may be repeated several times in succession. It is 
helped if the Slidesman addresses his remarks specifically towards 
the most distinguished of those persons in the front row who have 
just woken up. The distinguished elder will nod in more and more 
vigorous assent as each fresh distinction is drawn. It may be his 
last conference. 

Slides are very useful for conveying to the audience the Slides- 
man's togetherness with the Olympians. A good technique is to 
show a slide with something written with a sticky pencil on the 
reverse side so that the muddy, reversed, letters are made out only 
with difficulty by the fascinated audience. What the Slidesman 
has written is: 'Wigner asks for two copies of this slide.' The next 
slide but one bears the inscription (this time it can be on the right 
side) : 'This one for Eugene too.' 

The Slidesman-audience relationship is fostered by the 'Inter- 
polated Slide'. This is from a field utterly alien to that of the con- 
ference and illustrates, say, a sequence of tablets inscribed in 
Linear B, or, perhaps, a manuscript page of an unpublished 
arrangement by Busoni for one piano, three hands, of a motet by 
Gesualdo. The Slidesman says: 'I'm terribly sorry. It must have 
crept in somehow' and then after a tiny pause Another of my 
little foibles you know.' The implication that, firstly, this remote 
subject is but one of an unspecified number of the Slidesman's 
litde foibles (on which he evidently speaks at conferences) and 
that, secondly, he regards nuclear physics also as a little foible, 
are both satisfactory. 

An arresting technique is the 'Further Work' slide. This shows 
a number of points labelled 'Experiment' all lying well below a 
horizontal line labelled 'Theory.' The Slidesman (who is, of 
course, responsible for both the theory and the experiment) refers 
to the points as 'Very recent work in my laboratory.' (Always, 
my laboratory) and says that although the present fit between 
theory and experiment is not of the best further work is going on 
in his laboratory at that very moment and that he feels confident 
that when the new results come along the fit between experiment 
and theory will be gready improved. As he says this the experi- 
mental points, which are really little weights fixed on with more 
low-melting-point wax, respond to gravity as the wax softens in 
the heat of the projector and move across the screen to rest finally 



on the theoretical line which is really a strip sticking out of the 
surface to make a ledge. 

The final section of Slidesmanship on which I shall be able to 
touch in this all too sketchy survey is an intimate part of that 
branch of Conferencemanship to do with impressing your 
audience with the wealth of remote and exotic conferences, of 
which they have never heard, that you the Conferenceman have 
attended. This is the heart of Conferencemanship. The Slidesman 
rises during a discussion and says 'But this matter was absolutely 
thrashed into the ground at the Addis Ababa Conference.' This is 
good but it must be pressed home by: 'I happen to have a slide 
with me that Professor Poop kindly gave me after this meeting. 
It sums up very nicely and will save us any more discussion.' It 
does not matter what the slide is about either. 

A useful piece of Slidesmanship is to have a run of slides all of 
which project on their sides with abscissae running vertically. 
This causes cricked necks in the audience, itself very useful, and 
enables the Slidesman to say: 'I'm sorry about these slides, they 
were made up for the Peiping Conference.'* 

At one time Russianmanship was an, important part of Con- 
ferencemanship but now that everybody of any consequence has 
been to two Russian Conferences this must be largely dropped. 
Slides actually lettered in Cyrillic characters, however, are still 
most valuable. If the Slidesman presents a long run of slides, all so 
lettered, but without translating he implies both that he is so 
frequent a visitor to Soviet parts that it is worthwhile getting his 
slides specially made up and also that he is so familiar with the 
language that it never enters his head that it needs translating. 
This is good but the best is to come. Eventually someone in the 
audience must tire of this meaningless procession and say: 'Look 
here, aren't you going to tell us what those slides are about ? We 
can't all read Russian you know.' After a well-judged pause, the 
Slidesman replies, 'Not Russian, my dear fellow, Bulgarian.'' 

* Note to UK readers: Everybody but us and the Chinese use slides that are 
3i" x 4*; Chinese slides are 4" x 3£". 

*" "'iw tn 111 cvipm »nyrw m*js~frJ*' imyrc*--"' • Lt --y^jjd^ks^nn "' y?tf*m 

Mathematics are a species of Frenchman; if you say something to 
them, they translate it into their own language and presto ! it is 
something entirely different. 



A conference glossary 


From Proceedings A . IN PRESENTING PAPERS 
of the Chemical 

Society May 1 960 When They Say : 

PI73 - 1. Elegant 

They Mean: 

A reference to work of an 
author whose work is to be 

We barely had time to revise 
the abstract. Of course we 
fired the technician 

3. Preliminary experiments have We did it once but couldn't 

2. A surprising finding 

shown that 

4. The method, in our 
hands. ... 

5. A survey of the earlier 

6. Careful statistical analysis 

repeat it 

Somebody didn't publish all the 

I even read through some of 
last year's journals 

After going through a dozen 
books, we finally found one 
obscure test that we could 

7. We are excited by this It looks publishable 

8. We have a tentative explana- I picked this up in a bull session 
tion last night 

9. We didn't carry out the long- We like to go home at f pm 

term study 

10. The mechanism is not yet 

What do you think we are, 
slaves ? 

We plan to do the second 
experiment as soon as we get 


1 . We say this with trepidation 


(a) They are going out on a 
limb when in the presence of an 
author whose work is to be, or 
has been, attacked. 

(b) They are about to make a 
statement about something they 
know nothing about. 

A conference glossary 

Tell us now. Don't hide it in 
some obscure journal 

Have you read my work ? 

2. Could you discuss your 
findings ? 

3. Have you considered the 
possibility ? 

4. Have you any ideas at 
all . . . 

5 . Would you care to speculate ? I wonder if you agree with me 

What are you keeping from us ? 

You're out of your mind 

6. Why do you believe . . . ? 

7. I would like to make one 
comment on these suggestions 

8. We cannot reconcile these 

9. We have repeated your 
experiments in our lab. 

10. Did I read your slide 
correctly ? 

It is evident that the field of scientific semantics offers ground for 
fruitful investigation (which means 'I never expect to do it my- 
self, but if someone does, this statement will give me a claim on 

Are you telling the truth ? 

Brother, were we surprised ! 

Did you write it correctly ? I 
never make mistakes 

Valentine from a Telegraph Clerk $ to a Telegraph 
Clerk $ 


'O tell me, when along the line 

From my full heart the message flows, 
What currents are induced in thine ? 

One click from thee will end my woes '. 

Through many an Ohm the Weber flew, 

And clicked the answer back to me, 
'I am thy Farad, staunch and true, 

Charged to a Volt with love for thee '. 

[In Maxwell's time, the term Farad was sometimes used for what we now 
call a Coulomb while a Weber meant an Ampere.] 


Enrico Fermi 


From Enrico 
Fermi Physicist 
by Emilio Segre 
(University of 
Chicago Press 
1970) p 134 

Oppenheimer had been among the first to introduce quantum 
mechanics to America and had founded a flourishing school of 
theoretical physics which produced many of the leading American 
theoreticians. He often presented physics in rather abstract terms 
which contrasted, at least in my mind, with the simple, direct 
approach to which Fermi had accustomed me. I remember a 
remark that Fermi made in 1940 at the time of his visit to Berkeley 
for the Hitchcock lecture. After attending a seminar given by one 
of Oppenheimer's pupils on Fermi's beta-ray theory, Fermi met 
me and said: 'Emilio, I am getting rusty and old, I cannot follow 
the highbrow theory developed by Oppenheimer's pupils any- 
more. I went to their seminar and was depressed by my inability 
to understand them. Only the last sentence cheered me up ; it was : 
"And this is Fermi's theory of beta decay." ' 

From How to tell 
the Birds from the 
Flowers (New 
York : Dover) 

[R W Wood was well known as an optician, writer of hundreds of papers 
notably on resonance radiation. But his most famous book is 'How to tell 
the Birds from the Flowers', first published in 1927] 

The Parrot and the Carrot one may easily confound, 
They're very much alike in looks and similar in sound, 
We recognise the Parrot by his clear articulation, 
For Carrots are unable to engage in conversation. 



Good Mr. Darwin once contended 
That Beetles were from Bees descended, 
And as my pictures show I think 
The Beet must be the missing link. 
The sugar-beet and honey-bee 
Supply the Beetle's pedigree: 
The family is now complete, — 
The Bee, the Beetle and the Beet. 



Like many men who are engrossed in their special calling, Bun- 
sen was often absent-minded, and many good stories were cur- 
rent about the mistakes which he thus unwittingly made. He had 
a well known difficulty in remembering names; one day a visitor 
called who he knew quite well was either Strecker or Kekule. 
During the conversation he was endeavouring without success to 
make up his mind which of these two gentlemen was his caller. 
First he thought it was Kekule, then he convinced himself that he 
was talking to Strecker. At last, however, he decided that it was 
really Kekule. So when his visitor rose to take leave, Bunsen, 
feeling confidence in his last conclusion, could not refrain from 
remarking, 'Do you know that for a moment I took you for 
Strecker!' 'So I am,' replied his visitor in amazement. 


From 'Bunsen 
Memorial Lecture ' 
Journal of the 
Chemical Society 
(1900) 77. 

The Mason— Dixon line 

From Philosophi- [Lands in the American Colonies had been granted to William Penn and 
cal Transactions oj £ or< j Baltimore, known respectively as Pennsylvania and Maryland. But 
^°" et ' y the exact position of the boundary between them {nominally an east-west 
line at latitude 40° N) was subject to protracted disputes. Eventually in 
1363 the proprietors engaged the astronomer Charles Mason and his 
assistant feremiah Dixon to carry out an accurate survey. But this project 
led to others. One of the urgent scientific issues was the magnitude of the 
ellipticity of the earth, deduced from measurements of the length of a 
degree of latitude at different distances from the equator. An introduction to 
Mason and Dixon 's paper explained that the opportunity was taken to 
survey not only the east-west line but also to survey a north-south line 
100 miles long — a project supported by the Royal Society^ 

In the course of this work, Messrs Mason and Dixon traced out 
and measured some lines lying in and near the meridian, and ex- 
tended, in all, somewhat more than 100 miles; and, for this pur- 
pose, the country in these parts being all over-grown with trees, 
large openings were cut through the woods, in the direction of the 
lines, which formed the straightest and most regular, as well as 
extensive vistas that, perhaps, ever were made. 

They perceived that a most inviting opportunity was here given 
for determining the length of a degree of latitude, from the 
measure of near a degree and half. And, one remarkable circum- 
stance very much favoured the undertaking, which was, that the 
country through which the lines run, was, for the most part, as 
level as if it had been laid out by art. 

[Mason and Dixon 's calculations of the north-south distance and of the 
differences of latitudes ended as follows^ 

The sum is = 538067 feet = an arch of meridian intercepted 
between parallels of latitude answering to the celestial arch 
i°2o" 45". Then say, as i° 28' 45" is to i°so is 5 38 067 feet, to 363 763 
English feet, which is the length of a degree of latitude in the pro- 
vinces of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The latitude of the northern- 
most point was determined from the zenith distances of several 
stars, = 39 0 56' 19", and the latitude of the southernmost point = 
38 0 27' 34". Therefore the mean latitude expressed in degrees and 
minutes is = 39 0 12'. 

To reduce this measure of a degree to the measure of the Paris 
toise, it must be premised, that the measure of the French foot was 
found on a very accurate comparison, made by Mr Graham, of the 
toise of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, with the Royal 
Society's brass standard, to be to the English foot, as 114 to 107. 
Therefore say as 114 is to 107 so is 363763 the measure of the 


The Mason-Dixon line 

degree in English feet, to 341427 the measure of the degree in 
French feet, which divided by 6, the number of feet in a toise, 
gives the length of the degree = ^6904^ Paris toises, in the 
latitude 39 0 . 

It must however be observed, that the accuracy of this reduc- 
tion into Paris toises depends on a supposition that the length of 
the French toise, which is of iron, was laid off by the gentleman of 
the Royal Academy of Sciences, on the brass rod sent over to 
them for that purpose by Mr Graham, which was afterwards re- 
turned to him, in a room where the heat of the air answered to 62 
of Fahrenheit's thermometer, or 1 5 of Reaumur's, or nearly so, 
which is probable enough, but is a point that does not appear to 
have been ascertained. For, on account of the difference of 
expansion of brass and iron, 2 rods made of those metals, however 
accurately they may be made of equal lengths at first, will only 
agree together afterwards in the same temperature of the air in 
which they were originally adjusted together. It is fortunate that 
the uncertainty in the present case is but small, since 20 0 difference 
of Fahrenheit's thermometer or io° of Reaumur's, produces, 
according to Mr Smeaton's experiments, a difference of the 
expansions of brass and iron, of only 1/13500^ part, which would 
cause an error of only 27 English feet, or about 4 Paris toises in 
the length of the degree. 

It is however to be wished, that the proportion of lengths of the 
French and English measures might be again ascertained by an- 
other careful experiment, in which the temperature of the air, as 
shown by the thermometer, might be noted at the time. 

[Not only was the original line extended across the country to mark the 
division between North and South, but the work stimulated accurate 
measurements of expansion coefficients^ 

Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are pur- 
poseless are an interesting subject of study. 

Alfred NORTH WHITEHEAD, The Function of Reason 

One humiliating thing about science is that it is gradually filling 
our homes with appliances smarter than we are. 







Toothed wheels 

Line illustration 
from l An Ancient 
Greek Computer', 
Scientific Ameri- 
can, June 1959 
p 60 ; Antikythera 
machine photo- 
graph by courtesy 
of Derek deSolla 
Price; astrolabe 
photographs by 
courtesy of 
Museum of 
History of 
Science, Oxford. 

The two instruments shown here are among the most intriguing 
objects ever studied by historians of science. They could be de- 
scribed as analogue computers for displaying astronomical data — 
ancestors of the clock. Their fascination lies in the fact that these 
two are the earliest known devices which incorporated flat, toothed 
gearwheels. The wheels in both have 60° teeth and square shanks, 
and they resemble one another so closely that they must be part of 
the same technological tradition. Yet one is dated 65 (± 10) bc, the 
other ad 1222. They are separated by thirteen centuries but 
nothing comparable has yet been found belonging to the interval 

The Greek computer was discovered in 1901 in the wreck of a 
treasure ship sunk off the island of Antikythera, between Greece 
and Crete. The corroded fragments of brass and verdigris have 
been gradually cleaned and the instructions engraved on some of 
the plates partly deciphered. The partial reconstruction shows the 
square-section shaft e which was turned, presumably with a key, 
to rotate the slip rings g and i, probably indicating the positions of 
the seven 'planets', and the graduated scale / showing the position 
of the sun in the zodiac. 

The astrolabe of Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr the needle-maker of 
Isfahan in Persia resembles a design described in a manuscript 
written about ad 1000 by an author who is known to have visited 
India— perhaps this gives a clue to where the tradition was pre- 
served. The dial has windows showing the year and the phase of 
the moon, and four slip rings showing planetary positions. Some 
of the gears are missing. 

Newspaper Navy volunteers whirl on a merry-go-round, set mark in with- 
report- standing gravity forces . . . The capsule was spun on an arm at 

more than 3000 miles an hour for a period of 12 seconds, ie, at 

about 1 mi/sec in a 5 mile radius. 

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such 
wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment 
of fact. 

mark twain, Life on the. Mississippi, 1874 

The transit of Venus 


From The Gentle- 
man's Magazine 
31, 222 (1761), 
one of the early 
translations of the 
latin Venus in sole 
visa, emended by 
comparison with 
A B Whatton's 
Memories of the 
life & labours of 
Jeremiah Horrox 
(London) 1859. 

[One of the first Englishmen to understand Kepler's theory was Jeremiah 
Horrox, a young curate whose parish was in a low-lying and remote part 
of Lancashire. He was desperately poor— the living was 'a very poor 
pittance;' his efforts at teaching were 'daily harrassing duties'. But he 
bought a telescope and by the age of 20 had established that the moon's 
orbit is an ellipse with the earth at one focus. Calculating ephemerides, he 
stumbled across the fact that Venus should pass across the sun's disc on 
about November 24, 1639 {December 4 on our new style). 

A transit of Venus had never been observed before. It was important to 
establish the exact date and time because that would emphasise the 
inadequacy of geocentric theories and allow Kepler's figures to be refined. 
Indeed Horrox ' data were used extensively by Newton y 5 years later. 

William Crabtree was a linen draper of Manchester and the two were in 

I invited my friend, Wm Crabtree of Manchester to this [Iranian 
banquet, in a letter dated Hool, Oct. 26, 1639; who, in mathematical 
knowledge, is inferior to few. I communicated my discovery to 
him, and earnestly desired him to make whatever observation he 
possibly could with his telescope, particularly to measure the dia- 
meter of the planet Venus; which, according to Kepler, would 
amount to 7 m. according to Lansbergius to 11 m. but which 
according to my own proportion, I expected would hardly exceed 
one minute. I said, that the conjunction, according to Kepler, will 
be Nov. 24, 1639, 8 h. 1 m. A.M. at Manchester, the planet's lati- 
tude being 14 m. 10 s. south; but according to my own correction, 
I expected it to happen at 5 h. 57 m. P.M. at Manchester, with 
10 m. lat. south. But because a small alteration in Kepler's numbers 
would gready alter the time of the conjunction, and the quantity 
of the planet's latitude, 1 advised to watch the whole day, and even 
on the preceding afternoon, and the morning of the 25 th, though I 
was entirely of the opinion that the transit would happen on the 

After having fully weighed and examined the several methods 
of observing this uncommon phenomenon, I determined to trans- 
mit the Sun's image thro' a telescope into a dark chamber, rather 
than thro' a naked aperture, a method gready commended by 
Kepler; for the Sun's image is not given sufficiendy large and 
distinct by the latter, unless at a very great distance from the 
aperture, which the narrowness of my situation would not allow; 
nor would Venus's diameter be visible, unless the aperture were 
very small; whereas, my telescope, which rendered the solar 
spots distinctly visible, would shew me Venus % diameter well 


defined, and enable me to divide the Sun's limb more accurately. 

Having attentively examined Venus with my instrument, I des- 
cribed a circle upon paper, which nearly equalled six inches, the 
narrowness of the apartment not allowing a larger size; but even 
this size admitted divisions sufficiently accurate. 

When the time of observation drew near, I retired to my apart- 
ment; and having closed the windows against the light, I directed 
my telescope previously adjusted to a focus, thro' the aperture 
towards the Sun, and received his rays at right angles upon the 
paper. The Sun's distinct image exactly filled the circle, and I 
watched carefully and unceasingly for any dark body that might 
enter upon the disk of light; and tho' I could not expect the planet 
to enter upon the Sun's disk before three o'clock on the afternoon 
of the 24th, from my own corrected numbers, upon which I chiefly 
relied ; yet, I observed the Sun on the 23rd, but more particularly 
on the 24th ; for on the 24th I observed the Sun from the time of its 
rising to 9 o'clock; and again, from a little before ten until noon; 
and at one in the afternoon, being called in the intervals to busi- 
ness of the highest moment, which for these ornamental pursuits, 
I could not with decency neglect. But in all these times I saw 
nothing on the Sun's face except one small and common spot, 
which I had seen on the preceding day, and which also I after- 
wards saw on some of the following days. 

[Horrox' biggest difficulty was not so much the cloudy weather but rather 
that November 24 was a Sunday. He had to take Matins, Holy Com- 
munion and Evensong, preaching two massive sermons, during the short 
day. As time wore on and only 35 minutes were left till sunset, one can 
guess his emotions.] 

But at 3L 1 jm. in the afternoon, when I was again at liberty to 
continue my labours, the clouds, as if by Divine Interposition, were 
entirely dispersed, and I was once more invited to the grateful 
task of repeating my observations. I then beheld a most agreeable 
sight, a spot, which had been the object of my most sanguine 
wishes, of an unusual size, and of a perfectly circular shape, just 
wholly entered upon the Sun's disk on the left side, so that the 
limbs of the Sun and Venus exactiy coincided in the very point of 
contact. I was immediately sensible that this round spot was the 
planet Venus, and applied myself with the utmost care to prose- 
cute my observations. 

[These were the point of entry on to the Sun, the line of motion across it 
and the diameter of the planet.] 


The transit of Venus 

All the observations which could possibly be made in a short time, 
I was enabled, by Divine Providence, to complete so effectually 
that I could scarcely have wished for a more extended period. 

Mr Crabtree readily complied with my request and intended to 
observe the transit in the same manner with me ; but the sky was 
very unfavourable to him, and was so covered with clouds, almost 
during the whole day, that he gave himself up entirely to despair 
and resolved to take no further trouble in the matter. But, a little 
before the time of sun-set, about 3L 35 m. by the clock, the Sun 
breaking out for the first time from the clouds, he eagerly betook 
himself to his observation, and happily saw the most agreeable of 
all sights, Venus just entered upon the Sun. He was so ravished 
with this most pleasing contemplation, that he stood for some time 
viewing it leisurely, as it were ; and, from an excess of joy, could 
scarce prevail upon himself to trust his own senses. For we 
astronomers have a certain womanish disposition, distractedly de- 
lighted with light and trifling circumstances, which hardly make 
the least impression upon the rest of mankind. Which levity of 
disposition, let those deride that will; and with impunity; and if it 
gratify them I too will join in the merriment. But let not any 
severe Cato be seriously angry with these vanities of ours: For 
what youth, such as we are, would not fondly admire Venus in 
conjunction with the Sun, what youth would not dwell with 
rapture upon the fair and beautiful face of a lady, whose charms 
derive an additional grace from her fortune ?— But to return, he 
from his ecstacy, I from my digression. The clouds deprived Mr 
Crabtree of the sight of the Sun, almost as soon as he was roused 
from his reverie; so that he was able to observe little more than 
that Venus was certainly in the Sun. 

[But he was able to sketch the positions from memory .] 

I hope to be excused for not informing other of my friends of 
the expected phenomenon; but most of them care little for trifles 
of this kind, preferring rather their hawks and hounds, to say no 
worse. If others, without being warned by me, have witnessed the 
transit, I shall not envy their good fortune; but rather rejoice, and 
congratulate them on their diligence. 

[Though Horrox and Crabtree lived only 30 miles apart, both were so 
poor that they could never undertake such a long journey and they had 
never met. They planned to do so on January 4, 1 642, but Horrox died the 
day before that, 'very suddenly', aged 22.] 

I 7 <3 

Lines inspired by a lecture on 
extra-terrestrial life 


From The Some time ago my late Papa 

°i^)" 0ry 65,88 Acquired a spiral nebula. 

He bought it with a guarantee 

Of content and stability. 

What was his undisguised chagrin 

To find his purchase on the spin, 

Receding from his call or beck 

At several million miles per sec, 

And not, according to his friends, 

A likely source of dividends. 

Justly incensed at such a tort 

He hauled the vendor into court, 

Taking his stand on Section 3 

Of Bailey 'Sale of Nebulae. ' 

Contra was cited Volume 4 

Of Eggleston 's ' Galactic Law ' 

That most instructive little tome 

That lies uncut in every home. 

'Cease ' said the sage 'your quarrel base, 

Lift up your eyes to Outer Space. 

See where the nebulae like buns, 

Encurranted with infant suns, 

Shimmer in incandescent spray 

Millions of miles and years away. 

Think that, provided you will wait, 

Your nebula is Real Estate, 

Sure to provide you wealth and bliss 

Beyond the dreams of avarice. 

Watch as the rolling aeons pass 

New worlds emerging from the gas: 

Watch as the brightness slowly clots 

To eligible building lots. 

What matters a depleted purse 

To owners of a Universe ? ' 

My father lost the case and died: 

I watch my nebula with pride 

But yearly with decreasing hope 

I buy a larger telescope. 


Postprandial: Ions mine 


[In the heroic days of the Cavendish Laboratory it was the custom to hold 
an annual dinner followed by home-made entertainments, usually songs at 
the piano. These 'PostprarJial Proceedings of the Cavendish Society' 
( Cambridge : Bowes and Bowes 1926) celebrate the discoveries of gas 
discharge phenomena and the early days of nuclear physics. 

air 'Clementine.' 

1 In the dusty lab 'ratory, 

Mid the coils and wax and twine, 
There the atoms in their glory 
Ionise and recombine. 

CHORUS On my darlings! Oh my darlings! 
Oh my darling ions mine! 
You are lost and gone for ever 
When just once you recombine! 

2 In a tube quite electrodeless, 

They discharge around a line, 
And the glow they leave behind them 
Is quite corking for a time. 

3 And with quite a small expansion 

1 :8 or l :£>, 
You can get a cloud delightful, 
Which explains both snow and rain. 

4 In the weird magnetic circuit 

See how lovingly they twine, 
As each ion describes a spiral 
Round its own magnetic line. 

5 Ultra-violet radiation 

From the arc or glowing lime, 
Soon discharges a conductor 
If it's charged with minus sign. 

6 a rays from radium bromide 

Cause a ^inc-blende screen to shine, 
Set it glowing, clearly showing 
Scintillations all the time. 


The trial of Galileo 

[Popular versions of the trial of Galileo represent it as a confrontation of 
the goodies and the baddies, a champion of scientific truth against a 
reactionary church. Reality is more complicated. It was in fact university 
professors who instigated the affair. It was as if in modern terms a pro- 
ponent of some new version of fundamental particle theory were to have his 
political allegiance besmirched by his university colleagues. In sixteenth- 
century Italy the universities were dominated by monks who had a vested 
interest in protecting the ancient learning because that was inextricably 
interwoven into religious truth. The personalities of the Church — Pope and 
Cardinals — were more accommodating to new discoveries; they were 
brought into the controversy reluctantly, although there is little doubt that 
eventually they were angered by Galileo's tactlessness and brilliant 

The following account consists of extracts from the classic 'Galileo and 
the Freedom of Thought' by the chemist F Sherwood Taylor (London: 
Watts, 1938). In it, the words 'monks' and 'Peripatetics' can be taken to 
mean the university hierarchy. The controversy was between the old earth- 
centred system, the finite universe of Ptolemy (AD 146) ostensibly based 
on the physics of Aristotle, and the sun-centred universe, infinite in extent, 
proposed by Copernicus in 1S43. 

The controversy was sparked off when in 1609 Galileo made his first 
telescopes and within a short time observed the mountains of the moon, 
sunspots, the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus. The first two of 
these threw doubt on the perfection of the heavens, the other two made it 
plausible that the earth was not a unique planet. In 1613, Galileo moved 
from a chair of mathematics at Padua in the independent state of Venice, 
to a similar post at Florence in Tuscany, a less independent state and much 
nearer Rome.] 

With Galileo's removal to Florence begins the drama of his rela- 
tions with the Church. 

The first serious attack, abortive as it proved, was made in 1610 
or i6n by Ludovico delle Colombe in a pamphlet entitled Contro 
il moto della Terra— Against the Motion of the Earth. Galileo's 
name nowhere appears in it, but the tenor of the work shows it to 
be aimed at him and his school. 

The author begins by pointing out that the universe cannot be 
adequately described by mathematics, which is an abstraction 
from natural phenomena taken as a whole, and may predict many 
phenomena which are in practice impossible. 

He then gives a number of examples of phenomena which he 
supposes to conflict with the motion of the earth. Thus, he says, 
suppose a cannon to be fired, first due east, then due west. In one 
case the shot has the velocity of the earth as well as that of the 
force of the powder, in the other case only the difference of 


The trial of Galileo 

the two. But, in fact, no such difference is noted, and therefore 
the earth does not move. 

His second argument is similar. If the earth moved, and one 
were to shoot vertically with a cross-bow so as to make the pro- 
jectile return to one's feet, it would not return there, whereas the 
contrary is true. 

Thirdly, if the earth rotates so fast as Copernicus says, birds 
could not keep up with it ! 

Fourthly, suppose a ball of lead and a ball of cork to be dropped 
from a height, the former, which would descend faster than the 
latter, would be left behind by the earth to a less extent, so the two 
balls would land at different spots, which does not in fact occur. 

The idea of the moon being mountainous and composed of the 
same sort of matter as the earth shocked him deeply. He supposed 
that the mountains, which Galileo had demonstrated, were only 
denser portions, and that the whole was a perfect sphere, the 
apparent irregularities being filled up with a transparent, invisible 
material ! 

But the sting of Ludovico delle Colombe's treatise is in its tail. 
At the end of his argument he quotes a long series of Scriptural 
texts to show: 

(a) That the earth does not move. 

'Who laid down the foundations of the earth, that it should 
not be removed for ever' (Ps. civ. 5). 
'The World also shall be stable, that it be not moved' 
(I. Chron. xvi.30). 

(b) That the earth is at the centre. 

'He . . . hangeth the earth upon nothing [that is, at the 
centre]' (Job xxvi.7). 

Here, then, was the case against the Copernican theory. First, 
a number of flimsy arguments, arising from the Aristotelian ideas 
of motion; second, a series of Scriptural texts, backed by the inter- 
pretation of the Fathers. 

Galileo was a trifle alarmed by this attack, for it was no joke to 
have one's orthodoxy impugned. He wrote to his friend Cardinal 
Conti to inquire his opinion as to the compatibility of his views 
with Holy Scripture. The Cardinal replied that the scriptures 
favoured Galileo's views about the susceptibility of the heavens to 
change. He regarded a progressive or translational movement of 
the earth as conformable to scripture, but thought that a daily 
rotational movement was hard to reconcile with it. 


But Galileo was now enjoying a triumph. Towards the end of 
March, 161 1, he went to Rome, and was received with the highest 
acclamations. Archbishops and Princes of the Church were de- 
lighted to witness the new wonders of the sky. Their discoverer 
received the greatest of scientific honours in being elected to the 
famous Accademia dei Lincei, which occupied something of the 
position of the French Academy or the Royal Society. 

The new astronomical discoveries were eagerly studied by the 
highest authorities of the Church, despite the fact that they cer- 
tainly seemed to support the Copernican theory, and with no un- 
certain voice showed the ancient conception of the heavens to be 
untenable. The Peripatetics were naturally much incensed, both 
by the doctrines and their enthusiastic reception, but they could 
advance no convincing arguments in favour of the older views. 

The position was now exacerbated by a further controversy in 
which, again, Galileo showed the physics of Aristotle to be erron- 
eous, and at the same time had the opportunity of giving some 
hard knocks to the same Ludovico delle Colombe who wrote the 
above-mentioned treatise against the motion of the earth. The 
controversy occupies some eight hundred large pages of print, 
and is not of the first interest today. The dispute arose out of the 
Aristotelian doctrine that ice is formed from water by conden- 
sation as a result of cold. But it is well known that ice floats on 
water. Galileo maintained that anything which floated on water 
must be lighter than the same bulk of water, and that therefore ice 
must be less dense than water, and must be formed by rarefaction 
of, not condensation of water. The reply to this was that bodies do 
not float only on account of their low 'gravity'— and that, in fact, 
a flat thin body will float merely in virtue of its shape. Thus a thin 
slip of ebony can be made to float on water, while a lump of 
ebony sinks. Surface-tension effects were not well understood, 
but Galileo showed that this was true only if the surface was un- 
broken and that such a body would not rise from the bottom of a 
liquid. Moreover he clearly showed that when a body heavier 
than water rests on the surface it actually floats well below the 
surface, so that in fact the floating object may be pictured as a 
combination of the heavy body and the light air above it but 
below the general level of the water. Galileo published his con- 
clusions in 1612, and in the same year several Peripatetics, in- 
cluding Ludovico delle Colombe, published replies to it. In 1613 
Vincenzio di Grazia also attacked him. Galileo was advised not to 


The trial of Galileo 

reply, but compromised by allowing his favourite disciple, Don 
Benedetto Castelli, to publish a voluminous counter-blast, in the 
composition of which, no doubt, Galileo had the chief share. 

We must think, then, of this controversy as steadily embittering 
the relationship between Galileo and the university professors 
during the years 1611 to 16 16. His adversaries were convinced 
that he was a dangerous man, out to subvert philosophy. We shall 
not be surprised to find them making use of a weapon which lay 
close to their hands and to which the letter of the law of their 
religion endtled— nay, bound them. 

It was not long before an attempt was made to impugn Galileo's 
orthodoxy . . . 

[and there followed three years of intrigues, charges oj heresy and other 
accusations which did not succeed. Galileo talked and wrote too much; he 
believed implicitly in the power of reason]. 

By 161 5, the position was that Galileo's doctrines were felt to be 
dangerous by the reactionary, the timid, and those with a vested 
interest in Aristotle ; that he was practically unassailable by argu- 
ment, and that he must therefore be silenced by the civil power. 

To this end the adversaries of Galileo had shaped a new weapon. 
On November 13 Father Ferdinand Ximenes denounced Galileo's 
book on sun-spots to the Inquisitor in Florence. On November 25 
it was ordered to be examined, and two propositions were picked 
out; on February 19 these were sent to the Holy Office for an 
opinion. On February 24 the qualifiers delivered the following 
report, the greatest tactical blunder— to say nothing more— that 
the Inquisition has ever made : 

Propositions to be censured. 

Censure made in the Holy Office of the City, 

Wednesday, February 24, 1616, in presence of the under- 
signed Theological Fathers. 

First : The sun is the centre of the world, and altogether 
immovable as to local movement. 
Censure: All have said that the said proposition is foolish 
and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical, in as 
much as it expressly contradicts the opinions of Holy 
Scripture in many places according to the proper sense 
of the words and according to the common explanation 
and sense of the Holy Fathers and learned theologians. 


Second: The earth is not the centre of the world and is 
not immovable, but moves as a whole, also with a diurnal 

Censure : All have said that this proposition must receive 
condemnation in philosophy; and with respect to theo- 
logical truth is at least erroneous in faith. 

(There follow the signatures of the eleven 'qualifiers'.) 

It should be noted that Galileo is not mentioned in this docu- 
ment : it is moreover important to understand its exact significance. 

In the first place, the Holy Office allowed itself to make the 
error against which Galileo and St Augustine had warned their 
readers. It set up as a matter of faith a proposition of natural 
science. No more dangerous thing can be done, whether by 
Church or dictator, for demonstrable truths will demonstrate 
themselves, and in a few years the authority may find itself in a 
position from which there is no escape but retreat. 

Such an opinion necessarily put a heavy clog on scientific dis- 
cussion; for years afterwards good Catholics found it wise to steer 
clear of astronomical propositions. 

On the other hand, Protestant propagandists have much over- 
estimated the effect of this opinion. Its effect was, while allowing 
the individual to adhere to his own perception of the truth, to 
impose on the Catholic the duty of refraining from showing his 
dissension from the official view. Its effect was to preclude public 
discussion, but not to impose the necessity of interior belief; 
somewhat in the same way as a civil servant is restrained from 
publishing his politicial views. 

From the point of view of the Catholic of the time there was no 
enormity in the prohibition of discussion. The truth about natural 
things had not yet assumed much importance in the world's eyes ; 
religious questions, on the contrary, seemed to be of vital import. 
The idea of the duty of obedience to the Church had been familiar 
for centuries, while the notion of the right to free discussion had 
arisen only some eighty years before, and was still largely bound 
up with the idea of Protestantism. 

The censure having been pronounced, it remained to take prac- 
tical steps to give it effect. The next day Paul V ordered Cardinal 
Bellarmine to summon Galileo to his presence and to admonish 
him that he should renounce the condemned opinions, and he 
should abstain from teaching or defending this doctrine in any 


The trial of Galileo 

way whatever; if he were to refuse to agree to this, he was to be 
imprisoned. Cardinal Bellarmine duly admonished Galileo. 

In the Church itself there were many who were opposed to the 
action taken. Chief among these was Cardinal Barberini, after- 
wards Urban VIII; and in later years, when he was Pope, the fact 
that he had disapproved the action of the authorities gave Galileo 
great hope that the Copernican theory and system might once 
more receive recognition. 

Galileo seems to have been but little awed by this display of the 
Church's power. It appears from one of his letters that on March 
1 1 he was granted an interview with the Pope, who received him 
graciously and told him that the calumnies of his enemies would 
not be lightly believed. This may be the reason why, according 
to the Florentine Ambassador, Guicciardini, and others, Galileo 
behaved very rashly in continuing to urge his opinions even after 
the decree. At any rate he remained in Rome for many weeks, 
until at the end of May the Grand Duke thought it well to order 
him to return. 

Reading between the lines, we may see in the whole proceed- 
ings a victory for the monks, rather unwillingly wrung from the 
higher officials of the Church. These, therefore, mitigated the 
blow to Galileo by their favour. He, sanguine as ever, took their 
approval as a sort of tacit permission to discuss and teach his doc- 
trines as long as he did not publish anything in their defence. 

[But there was an ambiguity. Galileo thought that he had been ordered 
not to hold or defend the Copernican theory as if it were absolute truth, but 
that he was allowed to defend it as a hypothesis. In modern terms, he 
thought he was allowed to propose the sun-centred universe as a possible 
model, not necessarily the true model. The Inquisition however held that 
it had ordered Galileo not to teach the theory in any form whatsoever. 
Galileo continued teaching and writing for sixteen years. 

In 2632, he published the 'Dialogues concerning the two Principal 
Systems of the World' ; the arguments for and against the Copernican 
System are presented as conversations lasting four days, between two inter- 
locutors Salviati and Sagredo and the easily worsted Simplicio. Much of 
the argument centres on Galileo s theory of the tides, a complicated effect of 
centrifugal forces, any attraction by the moon being deliberately ruled out.] 

One of the most interesting and hotly debated of problems is the 
sequence of events which led to the decision to proceed against 
the Dialogues. 

Remembering that Galileo was in high favour with Urban VIII, 

that the latter had not shown himself averse to novel doctrines, 
and that the imprimatur had been given to the book; how is it that 
we find, six months after its appearance, that the Church had taken 
the decision to prohibit the book and to proceed against the 
author? It is clear that without the concurrence of Urban VIII 
no action would have been taken : what was it, then, that led him 
to this step ? 

Whether Galileo intended the Dialogues to appear to be a 
purely hypothetical discussion or not, the world regarded them 
as a discussion of the real truth of these matters. The book, which 
was published in February, took some time to reach Rome, and 
the first two copies arrived there as late as May, to be followed 
by eighty others in June. Meanwhile the book was being widely 
read elsewhere; the learned world was divided into partisans of 
Galileo, who could not find words to express their admiration of 
the work, and Peripatetics, who found in it a challenge which 
could not be answered by argument and must be smothered by 
force, if their system was to survive. 

The Dominicans and Jesuits were the driving force of the latter 
party. The Jesuits had a substantial monopoly of education, and 
were bound to defend their system to the last: they saw in 
Galileo's method of argument the prospect of the secularization 
of science, and they were determined to resist it. 

It is clear that the Pope was now convinced that the book con- 
tained dangerous doctrine, and that Galileo had used sharp prac- 
tice in obtaining the imprimatur. 

Urban VIII did not place the matter directly in the hands of the 
Inquisition, but appointed a special commission to consider the 
book. The reason for this was stated by the Pope himself to be 
clemency towards Galileo. According to this view, the Pope 
wished to find some loophole to avoid the necessity of taking action 
against his old friend. The opposite view, which is at least as 
probable, is that there seemed to be a difficulty in formulating a 
sound accusation, and that it was desirable to set out an indict- 
ment which would not fail of its object. The members of the com- 
mission were selected from Galileo's enemies, and attempts to 
have two of his friends made members of it were unsuccessful. 

The proceedings went on in complete secrecy: Galileo was 
neither represented nor given any information, so that when, 
several months later, he appeared before the Inquisition, he had no 
knowledge of the charges which were to be preferred against him. 


The trial of Galileo 

After about a month the Commission made its report. It formu- 
lated three counts against Galileo himself and eight against the 
book. The former were: 

1. Galileo has transgressed orders in departing from the hypo- 
thetical position, in that he has asserted absolutely the mobility 
of the earth and the fixity of the sun. 

2. He has incorrecdy deduced the existence of the tides from the 
non-existent stability of the sun and mobility of the earth. 

3. Moreover, he has been fraudulendy silent with regard to the 
command imposed on him by the Holy Office in the year 16 16. 

The Inquisition summoned Galileo to Rome. He made every 
effort and used all the influence at his command to avoid or delay 
the journey. Seventy years of age, in poor health, and only recently 
recovered from a painful inflammation of the eyes, small wonder 
if he dreaded the long journey, made worse by the irksome quar- 
antine regulations of a plague-stricken country— a journey, more- 
over, to a tribunal whose ruthlessness and power he knew too 
well. . . . 

[There followed four trials in all, dragged out over several months 
though Galileo was allowed to stay comfortably housed as they proceeded. 
Galileo himself became convinced that the Inquisition had in fact in 2616 
ordered him not to teach Copernican astronomy even as a hypothesis, and 
he had obviously disobeyed. Eventually he prepared to recant his views, 
abjectly but probably insincerely]. 

To those who wish to set up Galileo as a plaster saint of science, 
this disavowal of his life's work is inexpressibly shocking. We 
must not forget that he was old and ill; that he was a good Catho- 
lic, and saw in the Church the fountain-head of all that was good. 
He was not in the position of the martyr, whose burning-inte- 
grity no power can break. The conflict between the cause of 
scientific truth and the right of the Church to dictate its members' 
beliefs raged in his heart, no less than in the world outside. 

Now, after three centuries of science, the idea of scientific truth 
is a clear-cut conception: but, in 1633, Galileo was one of the very 
few who had separated natural truths from spiritual; it is doubtful 
if at that time there was a man who would have laid down his life 
for a scientific hypothesis. 

Galileo was forced to kneel and recant his opinions in the 
following terms: 


'I, Galileo Galilei, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei, 
Florentine, aged seventy years, arraigned personally before 
this tribunal ... I adjure, curse and detest the errors 
and heresies and I swear that in future I will never again 
say or assert, verbally or in writing, anything that might 
furnish occasion for a similar suspicion regarding me. 
... I, Galileo Galilei, have abjured as above with my 
own hands'. 

There is a famous story that Galileo, on rising from his knees, 
muttered Eppur si muove— 'None the less, it moves !'. This story 
was accepted in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, 
but the more critical biographers very naturally rejected it, for 
the earliest mention of it appeared to be as late as 1778. But 
recendy Fahie, in his Memorials of Galileo Galilei, has shown that 
these words are inscribed on a portrait, which appears to have 
been painted in the year of Galileo's death. The improbability of 
his having pronounced these words audibly is extreme, for having 
submitted with humiliating completeness, it is unlikely that in the 
same breath he should defy his all-powerful judges. May we con- 
jecture that he told some favourite disciple that he had murmured 
the phrase inaudibly; and that the story, like a thousand others, 
became more striking the more often it was told ? 

Newton and Facts 

John Conduitt, a personal friend of Newton, tells the following: 
Mr Molyneux related to us that after he and Mr Graham and Dr 
Bradley had put up a perpendicular telescope at Kew, to find out 
the parallax of the fixed stars, they found a certain nutation of the 
Earth which they could not account for, and which Molyneux told 
me he thought destroyed entirely the Newtonian system; and 
therefore he was under the greatest difficulty how to break it to 
Sir Isaac. And when he did break it by degrees, in the softest 
manner, all Sir Isaac said in answer was, when he had told him his 
opinion, 'It may be so, there is no arguing against facts and experi- 
ments', so cold was he to all sense of fame at a time when a man 
has formed his last understanding. 

From D Bentley, 
Memoirs of Sir 
Isaac Newton 2, 

I8 7 

John Dalton's discovery of his 
colour blindness 

From Memoirs of 
the Manchester 
Literary and Philo- 
sophical Society 5, 
28 (1798). 

[In French, colour blindness is called le Daltonisme. This account of the 
discovery of his condition was published in 1798^ 

I was always of opinion, though I might not often mention it, that 
several colours were injudiciously named. The term pink, in refer- 
ence to the flower of that name, seemed proper enough; but when 
the term red was substituted for pink, I thought it highly improper; 
it should have been blue, in my apprehension, as pink and blue 
appear to me very nearly allied ; whilst pink and red have scarcely 
any relation. 

In the course of my application to the sciences, that of optics 
necessarily claimed attention; and I became pretty well acquainted 
with the theory of light and colours before I was apprized of any 
peculiarity in my vision. I had not, however, attended much to the 
practical discrimination of colours, owing, in some degree, to 
what I conceived to be a perplexity in their nomenclature. Since 
the year 1790, the occasional study of botany obliged me to 
attend more to colours than before. With respect to colours that 
were white, yellow, or green, I readily assented to the appropriate 
term. Blue, purple, pink, and crimson appeared rather less dis- 
tinguishable; being according to my idea, all referable to blue. I 
have often seriously asked a person whether a flower was blue or 
pink, but was generally considered to be in jest. Notwithstanding 
this, I was never convinced of a peculiarity in my vision, till I 
accidentally observed the colour of the flower of the Geranium 
lonale by candle-light, in the autumn of 1792. The flower was 
pink, but it appeared to me almost an exact sky-blue by day; in 
candle-light, however, it was astonishingly changed, not having 
then any blue in it, but being what I called red, a colour which 
forms a striking contrast to blue. Not then doubting but that the 
change of colour would be equal to all, I requested some of my 
friends to observe the phenomenon; when I was surprised to find 
they all agreed, that the colour was not materially different from 
what it was by day-light, except my brother, who saw it in the 
same light as myself. This observation clearly proved, that my 
vision was not like that of other persons. 


Paris, May 1832 


From Galois [Evariste Galois {born 1811 near Paris) was one of the most original pure 

Ch^'man" nd° n ' mathematicians of the early nineteenth century. By the age of 18 he was 
Hall) 1972 submitting papers to the Academy of Sciences but they were rejected or 

lost. In the riots of 1830 Galois was expelled from the Ecole Normale for 
writing a blistering attack on the director of the school who had prevented 
the students from taking part in the revolt.] 

On 17th January 1831 he sent once more a memoir to the Aca- 
demy : On the conditions of solubility of equations by radicals. Cauchy 
was no longer in Paris, and Poisson and Lacroix were appointed 
referees. After two months Galois had heard no word from them, 
and he wrote to the President of the Academy asking what was 
happening. He received no reply. 

He joined the artillery of the National Guard, a Republican 
organization. Soon afterwards its officers were arrested as con- 
spirators, but acquitted by the jury. The artillery was disbanded 
by royal order. On 9th May a banquet was held in protest; the 
proceedings became more and more riotous, and Galois proposed 
a toast to Louis-Philippe with an open knife in his hand. His 
companions interpreted this as a threat on the king's life, ap- 
plauded mightily, and ended up dancing and shouting in the 
street. The following day Galois was arrested. At the trial he 
admitted everything, but claimed that the toast proposed was 
actually to 'To Louis-Philippe, if he turns traitor ', and that the up- 
roar had drowned the last phrase. The jury acquitted him, and he 
was freed on June 15 th. 

On 4th July he heard the fate of his memoir. Poisson declared it 
'incomprehensible'. The report ended as follows. 

i We have made every effort to understand Galois' proof . His reason- 
ing is not sufficiendy clear, sufficiendy developed, for us to judge 
its correctness, and we can give no idea of it in this report. The 
author announces that the proposition which is the special object 
of this memoir is part of a general theory susceptible of many 
applications. Perhaps it will transpire that the different parts of a 
theory are mutually clarifying, are easier to grasp together rather 
than in isolation. We would then suggest that the author should 
publish the whole of his work in order to form a definitive opinion. 
But in the state which the part he has submitted to the Academy 
now is, we cannot propose to give it approval'. 

On July 14th Galois was at the head of a Republican demon- 
stration, wearing the uniform of the disbanded artillery, carrying 
a knife and a gun. He was arrested on the Pont-Neuf, convicted 
of illegally wearing a uniform, and sentenced to six months' im- 


Paris, May 1832 

prisonment in the jail of Sainte-Pelagie. He worked for a while on 
his mathematics, then in the cholera epidemic of 1832 he was 
transferred to a hospital. Soon he was put on parole. 

Along with his freedom he experienced his first and only love 
affair, with one Mile Stephanie D. The surname is unknown; it 
appears in one of Galois' manuscripts, but heavily obliterated. 
There is much mystery surrounding this interlude, which has a 
crucial bearing on subsequent events. Fragments of letters in- 
dicate that Galois was rejected and took it very badly. Not long 
afterwards he was challenged to a duel, ostensibly because of his 
relationship with the girl. Again the circumstances are veiled in 
mystery. One school of thought asserts that the girl was used as 
an excuse to eliminate a political opponent on a trumped-up 
'affair of honour'. In support of this we have the express statement 
of Alexandre Dumas (in his Memoires) that one of the opponents 
was Pecheux D'Herbinville. But Dalmas cites evidence from the 
police report suggesting that the other duellist was a Republican, 
possibly a revolutionary comrade of Galois', and that the duel 
was exactly what it appeared to be. And this theory is largely 
borne out by Galois' own words on the matter : 

'I beg patriots and my friends not to reproach me for dying 
otherwise than for my country. I die the victim of an infamous 
coquette. It is in a miserable brawl that my life is extinguished. 
Oh ! why die for so trivial a thing, for something so despicable ! 
. . . Pardon for those who have killed me, they are of good faith'. 

On the same day, May 29th, the eve of the duel, he wrote his 
famous letter to his friend Auguste Chevalier, outlining his dis- 
coveries, later published by Chevalier in the Revue Encyclopedique. 
In it he sketched the connection between groups and polynomial 
equations, stating that an equation is soluble by radicals provided 
its group is soluble. But he also mentioned many other ideas, 
about elliptic functions and the integration of algebraic functions; 
and other things too cryptic to be identifiable. It is in many ways 
a pathetic document, with scrawled comments in the margins: 'I 
have no time !' 

The duel was with pistols at 25 paces. Galois was hit in the 
stomach, and died a day later on 31st May of peritonitis. He re- 
fused the office of a priest. On 2nd June 1832 he was buried in the 
common ditch at the cemetery of Montparnasse. 
His letter to Chevalier ended with these words : 
'Ask Jacobi or Gauss publicly to give their opinion, not as to the 
truth, but as to the importance of these theorems. Later there will 


From Reflexions 
sur la Puissance 
Motrice du Feu 
ed. Hippolyte 

be, I hope, some people who will find it to their advantage to de- 
cipher all this mess. . . .' 

[Three days after Galois' funeral, a major riot broke out in Paris. Captain 
Sadi Carnot, at 36 retired from the Army to devote himself to physics, 
went to watch the disturbances] 

An officer leading a cavalry charge was galloping along the street 
brandishing his sabre and knocking people down. Sadi threw him- 
self at him dodging easily under his arm, grabbed him by the leg 
the toppled him to the ground. He laid him in the gutter and went 
on down the street, avoiding the cheers of the crowd. 

[Two months later Sadi was dead of cholera] 

,khh^«W -"■-'ff i f--"' ■yX'"' '"""T f T "' m <mpd m im»m >» ^y ^*" 

Pulsars in poetry 


From Physics Twinkle, twinkle, pulsing star 
19 Newest p Ull le from afar. 

Beeping on and on you sing — 
Are you saying anything? 
Twinkle, twinkle more, pulsar, 
How I wonder what you are. 

Clouds, 1900 

Slightly con- 
densed from 
Magazine (<S) 2, 


The beauty and clearness of the dynamical theory, which asserts 
heat and light to be modes of motion, is at present obscured by 
two clouds. 

I. The first involves the question, How could the earth move 
through an elastic solid, such as essentially is the luminiferous 
ether ? 

II. The second is the Maxwell-Boltzmann doctrine regarding the 
partition of energy. 

[Kelvin could certainly recognise the important clouds. One needed 
relativity, the other quantum theory, to blow it away.] 


An awkward incident 


I had been making a number of films, demonstrating experiments, 
for distribution to schools. In June the producer said to me 'That 
shot of so-and-so which we made three months ago has turned out 
to be faulty. Will you please come on Monday wearing the same 
grey suit with a pin-stripe, and we'll repeat that bit'. I had to say 
'My wife declared she could no longer stand seeing me in that 
suit and has given it to a jumble sale'. The producer said 'You must 
get it back. The only alternative is to re-do the whole sequence 
and that would be prohibitively expensive.' So, on going to our 
country place, the site of the jumble sale, we asked our cleaning 
lady— who always knew everything— whether she could cast any 
light on the disposal of the suit. She said she thought she had seen 
Mrs S— of N— (a neighbouring village) going off from the sale 
with a grey suit. With some difficulty we traced Mrs S- down, 
'Yes, her husband had bought a grey coat and vest, but he had not 
bought the trousers; another gentleman had bought the trousers 
because her husband had not thought he would have any use for 
them.' During this conversation I caught a glimpse of Mr S— in a 
neighbouring room having his tea, and it was obvious from his 
figure that my trousers would not have been useful. Pressed, she 
was uncertain who the other gentlemen was. So I borrowed the 
'coat and vest' and told the producer that he must take the missing 
shot from the waist up. He said that this difficulty was unique in 
his experience. 

Newton: letter 
dated 5 Feb 1676 
quoted in On the 
shoulders of giants 
by Robert K 
Merton (The Free 
Press) 1965, 

Shoulders of giants 

In a letter to Robert Hooke, Newton wrote: 'If I have seen a 
little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants'. 

As Gerald Holton, Derek de Solla Price and others have esti- 
mated, some 80 to 90 per cent of all scientists known to history 
are alive today. To capture the very modern thought that much 
of what is now known in science has been discovered in our own 
time, Holton introduced a symposium at which distinguished 
physicists were to report the history of their major discoveries 
with the disastrously mixed metaphor: 'In the sciences, we are 
now uniquely privileged to sit side by side with the giants on 
whose shoulders we stand'. 


Rotating dog 

It was during the visit of the comet in 1874, when unfortunately 
the comet's tail was a subject of general conversation, that Max- 
well's terrier developed a great fondness for running after his own 
tail, and though anyone could start him, no one but Maxwell could 
stop him until he was weary. Maxwell's method of dealing with 
the case was, by a movement of the hand, to induce the dog to 
revolve in the opposite direction and after a few turns to reverse 
him again, and to continue these reversals, reducing the number 
of revolutions for each, until like a balance wheel on a hair spring 
with the maintaining power withdrawn, by slow decaying oscil- 
lations the body came to rest. 


Answer man 

question: Explain why an ice boat may sail faster than the 
speed of the prevailing wind. 

answer: Dear Friend: In the first place there is very litde 
resistance to an ice boat before the wind. But a sailboat in water 
has to push a great deal of water aside in order to proceed. 
Another factor which allows a higher terminal velocity for an ice 
boat is momentum. You see, as the wind blows the speed of the 
boat multiplies until the weight of the boat plus the speed of the 
wind add up to the total speed of the wind. 

Actually the percentage of speed developed by an ice boat is not 
a great deal more than the propelling wind on account of the pull 
of gravity. Perhaps 1 5 per cent greater speed would be considered 
Write again. 

Home run 

Newspaper Correspondent says the ball has not changed ... All right, so 
cutting, maybe the 1950 baseball isn't any livelier than the 1940 or 1930 

baseball. Then what accounts for the outbreak of home runs, of 
triples and doubles ? 

To solve the mystery, how about considering the bat ? It is being 
used differently— and more effectively. And it has gradually 
become smaller. 

Here is the amazing thing. You might think that the bigger the 
bat the more distance a man could get with hitting a baseball. Such 

From 'Reminis- 
cences of William 
Garnett', Nature 
128 605 (1931). 

From The Answer 
Man WOR, New 
York 18, NY. 


Home run 

is not the case. The distance, or force, that is given to an object is 
covered by a litde formula out of high school physics. This says: 
Kinetic energy equals one half the mass times the velocity 

Note that 'squared'. That's the key word. For example, if the 
mass in this formula was expressed by the figure 5, and the velocity 
by the same figure, then if you increased the mass to six you would 
have only a slight increase in the distance a ball would go. But if 
you increased the velocity to six, you would have a very con- 
siderable increase. Because five squared is 25, while 6 squared is 
36. It is as simple as that. 

Or to put it another way, you can get a lot more distance on a 
hit by swinging a small bat very fast than by swinging a big bat 
somewhat slower. That is why before a game a fungo bat is used 
to knock balls out to the outfielders for practice. This is a very 
slender bat. Armed with it, even the weakest hitter can belt one 
300 feet with ease. (It could not be used in a game because it 
would break under the force of a pitch.) 

From Physicists 
continue to laugh, 
MIR Publishing 
House, Moscow 
1968. Translated 
from the Russian 
by Mrs Lorraine 
T KapitanofT. 

Newspaper report The more prosaic explanation of scientists for the copper appear- 
ance of the moon during total eclipse is that the sunlight which 
filters through the earth's atmosphere and reaches the moon at 
this time contains a more reddish tint than ordinary sunlight 
because the red element of the light predominates. 


The pulsar's Pindar 


[This poem has been dedicated to S Jocelyn Bell of the Cambridge Uni- 
versity Milliard Radio Astronomy Observatory, 'whose persistence led 
astronomy's most awesome personages to the pulsar's pulling performance . 
It was written by Dietrich E Thomsen and fonathan Eberhart in 1968, in 
the early days of pulsar investigation, when the nature of these heavenly 
bodies was very mysterious.] 

Rhythmically pulsating radio source, 
Can you not tell us what terrible force 
Renders your density all so immense 
To account for your signal so sharp and intense ? 

Are you so dense that no matter you own; 
Not atoms nor protons, save neutrons alone ? 
And do you then fluctuate once every second 
So fixed that by you all our clocks might be reckoned? 

Or are you two stars bound together in action 
That spin like a lighthouse beam gone to distraction ? 
What in the world can account for your course 
O rhythmically pulsating radio source? 

And perhaps is there more than your radio beam? 
Perhaps visible light in a radiant stream ? 
And what if the cause of your well-metered twitch 
Is a strange but intelligent hand at the switch ? 

A world of astronomers ponder, a-pacing, 
The cause of your infernal, rock-steady spacing, 
To see your pulse vary, they valiantly strive, 
From 1 • 337 279$ • 

But the biggest of mysteries plaguing our earth 
Is, how of your kind can there be such a dearth ? 
In infinite space one should find ever more; 
Can it be that your number indeed is but four? 

it^wr-*" -ti«b»*" ■.■■-■fy-.-.- -.■-^ M ».> JJ -"--twm****! 'Tin i" »mwmi mw 111 nKmarfOi 

From Science 
News 93 (15 June 
1968) p 562. 

strepsiades : But why do they look so fixedly on the ground ? 
disciple of socrates: They are seeking for what is below the ground. 
strepsiades : And what is their rump looking at in the heavens ? 
disciple: It is studying astronomy on its own account. 

Aristophanes, The Clouds. 


Walter Nernst 


Lecturing on the fundamentals of radio wave transmission, Nernst 
told the story that he had the honour to demonstrate radio trans- 
mission to the German Emperor and Empress. The transmitter 
was in the Institute of Physics and Nernst was supervising the 
transmission where they selected a phonograph record with a song 
by the famous Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso. After the transmis- 
sion, Nernst was asked to come to the Castle. The Empress con- 
gratulated him on the wonderful demonstration and said, 'By the 
way, Good Professor, we did not know that you are such a fine 
singer !' 

From Electronic 
Age 28, No 3 

"Don't just sit there! It you've processed 
ail the data there is, go out and find more data!" 




From 'Impotence 
and Achievement 
in Physics and 
Nature 207 120-5 

Self-frustration can arise very easily in military security. Lord 
Cherwell, for example, during the War held a pass that was in- 
tended to allow him to enter any Government establishment. Such 
a universal and vital pass could only be issued to persons of 
extreme responsibility; most people held passes which would ad- 
mit them to only one specific establishment. Since there were few 
persons of comparable responsibility to Lord Cherwell, there were 
very few of his kind of pass; and its appearance was kept confi- 
dential, so that it could not easily be forged. It followed that very 
few guards at the entrances to establishments had ever seen it, and 
so Lord Cherwell had great difficulty in persuading them that it 
was genuine, and to let him in. 

There is often peculiar humour about self-frustration. Consider, 
for example, a train of events which started outside the old Claren- 
don Laboratory, Oxford. I came across a dirty beaker full of 
water just when I happened to have a pistol in my hand. Almost 
without thinking I fired, and was surprised at the spectacular way 
in which the beaker disappeared. I had, of course, fired at beakers 
before; but they had merely broken, and not shattered into small 
fragments. Following Rutherford's precept I repeated the experi- 
ment and obtained the same result: it was the presence of the 
water which caused the difference in behaviour. Years later, after 
the War, I found myself having to lecture to a large elementary 
class at Aberdeen, teaching hydrostatics ab initio. Right at the 
beginning came the definitions— a gas having little resistance to 
change of volume but a liquid having great resistance. I thought 
that I would drive the definitions home by repeating for the class 
my experiments with the pistol, for one can look at them from the 
point of view of the beaker, thus suddenly challenged to accom- 
modate not only the liquid that it held before the bullet entered it, 
but also the bullet. It cannot accommodate the extra volume with 
the speed demanded, and so it shatters. 

The experiment became duly public in Aberdeen, and inspired 
the local Territorial contingent of the Royal Engineers, who used 
sometimes to parade on Sundays to practise demolition. One task 
that fell to them or, more accurately, refused to fall to them, was 
the demolition of a tall chimney at a local paper works. There are 
various standard procedures for this exercise, one of the oldest 
being to remove some of the bricks of one side, and to replace 
them by wooden struts. This process is carried so far as to remove 
the bricks from rather more than half-way round the base of the 
chimney and to a height comparable with the radius. A fire is then 



lit in the chimney, to burn through the struts and cause the chim- 
ney to fall. 

The Royal Engineers, however, decided this time to exploit the 
incompressibility of water as demonstrated by my experiment. 
Their plan was to stop up the bottom of the chimney, fill it with 
water to a height of 6 ft or so, and simulate the bullet by firing an 
explosive charge under the water. Since diversions on the Sab- 
bath were rare in Aberdeen, the exercise collected a large audi- 
ence and the charge was duly fired. It succeeded so well that it 
failed completely. What happened was that, as with the beaker, 
every brick in contact with the water flew outwards, leaving a 
slighdy shortened chimney with a beautifully level-trimmed 
bottom 6 ft up in the air. The whole structure then dropped nicely 
into the old foundation, remaining upright and intact— and pre- 
senting the Sappers with an exquisite problem. 

Here again, in technology as well as in administration 'the best 
laid schemes . . . gang aft a-gley' through some element built 
into the original plan. As a passing example, we may note the 
failure of all attempts to make a golf ball attain maximum range by 
polishing its surface. There is a story that P G Tait, then professor 
of natural philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, calculated 
the maximum range of a golf ball, and that his son then took him 
out on the links and showed him that the ball could be driven 
much further. It was also said that old balls went further than new 
ones. This was probably true, because the surfaces of old balls 
were chipped and roughened ; and, based on this observation, new 
balls have ever since been intentionally dimpled. The then un- 
known factor which later came to light in the wind tunnel was 
that the roughness encouraged the onset of small-scale turbulence 
around the ball, and — over the useful range of velocities— this 
forestalled and obviated the large-scale and more dissipative 
turbulence which would occur when the laminar flow around the 
smooth ball ultimately broke down. Rough balls thus have less 
resistance, paradoxically, than smooth ones. There is probably a 
lesson for the administrators here as telling as anything in classical 

[Archaeologists sometimes find that the Romans carefully puckered the 
surface of their sling shots, presumably having found that they travel 


Unsung heroes — I: J-B Moire 


From npl News Moire fringes are known to everybody, and I have many times 
2 ° 7 io 2 -n U ' y !S>67 ^ k een asked who gave his name to them. As a result, I have done a 
little historical research, and I am now able to give a few frag- 
mentary details of the life of this remarkable inventor. 

Jean-Baptiste Moire was born in 1835 to Aristide Moire and his 
wife Therese, nee Dubonnet. Therese brought great wealth to the 
family, deriving from the sale of the remarkable liquid which was 
invented by her father and bears his name. Their easy style of life 
enabled Jean-Baptiste to develop to the full his remarkable 
mental powers. 

Moire was a true polymath, at home alike in the arts and the 
sciences. He might, in fact, have been termed the Leonardo of 
the Second Empire had not Leonardo already been christened the 
Moire of the Renaissance by the intelligentsia of the Left Bank. 

His attention was first drawn to the interaction between gratings 
by a chance observation at the age of eight, while hanging up- 
side down from the back of the family coach (a frequent practice 
of his, both in childhood and in later life). The spokes of the turn- 
ing wheels of the coach, while passing a picket fence, gave rise to 
striking patterns which made an indelible impression on the mind 
of the young savant, which impression was reinforced when, in his 
excitement, he relaxed the grip of his toes and was projected head 
first onto the adamantine flints of the road. 

These patterns remained at the back of his mind throughout 
adult life, in spite of such multifarious activities as predicting a 
trans-Neptunian planet (with an orbit at right angles to the eclip- 
tic) and leading an expedition to the South Pole (by correspon- 
dence). Ultimately, he wrote a book on these matters, 'Sur les 
franges des reseaux croisses,' which was never published. The 
reason for this lack of publication was that this restless genius 
became engaged in the problem of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, un- 
aware that it had already been solved by a fellow countryman, 
Champollion. He effected the translation of the Rosetta Stone 
with contemptuous ease and, as an academic exercise, rewrote his 
book in hieroglyphs. 

His activities came to the notice of the Society of Antiquaries in 
London, who invited him over to deliver a paper on this matter. 
While walking down Piccadilly he encountered his old friend 
Professor Eddy of the University of Bletchley, the discoverer of 
the Eddy currents well known to generations of electrical engi- 
neers the world over. Engaged in animated conversation, they 
entered the forecourt of Burlington House; Moire made to the 


Unsung heroes — /: J-B Moire 

left in the direction of the rooms of the Society of Antiquaries, 
while Eddy attempted to turn to the right to the Royal Society. 

Predictably, these opposing tendencies cancelled, with the 
result that the two philosophers walked straight ahead into the 
Royal Academy, where the Academicians were assembled to hear 
a lecture on the Pre-Raphaelites. Ever direct in his actions, Moire 
strode to the rostrum and began his own lecture. 

Unhappily, he commenced by exhibiting an enlarged page of 
his book, which also contained a picture of the fringes given by 
two circular gratings. Faced by what seemed to be a new and 
radical tendency in art, a howl of execration arose from the 
audience, who rose and drove Moire from the building. 

Pursued b / the flower of the artistic Establishment, he fled down 
Piccadilly. His display card flew from his nerveless fingers and was 
torn to pieces by the enraged Academicians: however, the frag- 
ments were gathered up by a passing Japanese silkweaver, one 
Hideo Nakamura, who saw the commercial possibilities of these 
patterns and, home in Japan, launched the now famous moire silk. 
Unfortunately, his taste was so bad that his products gave rise to 
the adjective 'hideous'. 

Moire, always resourceful, made for the Ritz, where his life- 
long friend, Georges Canape (Moire was once a suitor for the 
hand of his daughter Omelette) was head chef. He took refuge 
there till, after an urgent message to the Prime Minister, a 
destroyer took the distinguished savant across the Channel. Un- 
happily, his scientific curiosity in the action of the rudder pre- 
vented him from completing the journey, and so this shining 
chapter in the history of natural philosophy was prematurely 

Each physicist, with a girl beside him, spends two hours a day 
scanning photographs and gets through 400 or 500 

'The Hunting of the Quark', Sunday Times, 1 March 1964 

±ij^s"frm \nss?(t&u*kM&rfriu >rt^j«iM<« »wewa«« lttamami mjwwajji >^awa<ii iit«wfri*fa>*^i*aqj* 

From a student it was, in fact, the investigation of heat conduction in a taurus 
essay which led Fourier to the discovery of his celebrated series. 


Unsung heroes — II: Juan Hernandez 
Torsion Herrera 


From journal of It is regrettable that there are many men of science who today are 
hreproduabk a l mos t forgotten. There is indeed only a pitiful handful of scien- 
(1962). tists and engineers who can quote more than a scrap or biography 

on Placide Torque, inventor of the Torque dynamometer; or 
Cholmondeley Bartholomew String, who developed the String 
galvanometer; or even the contemporary industrial designer Ole 
Bjerkan, the man to whom we owe the indespensable Bjerkan 
opener. But there are others too. 

Of Juan Hernandez Torsion Herrera very little is known. He 
was born of noble parents in Andalusia about 1454. He travelled 
widely and on one of his journeys in Granada with his cousin Juan 
Fernendez Herrera Torsion both were captured by Moorish 
bandits. Herrera Torsion died in captivity but Torsion Herrera 
managed to escape after a series of magnificent exploits of which 
he spoke quite freely in his later years. During these years he was 
affectionately known as the 'Great Juan' or as the 'J uan who Got 

Although not a scientist in his own right, Torsion Herrera passed 
on to a Jesuit physicist the conception of his famous Torsion 
balance. The idea apparently came to him when he observed cer- 
tain deformations in the machinery involved when another cousin, 
Juan Herrera Fernandez Torsion was being broken on the rack. 

Wolfgang Pauli 


Pauli was a brilliant lecturer if he prepared his address. Once, 
when I invited him to address our colloquium in Princeton, he did 
not. The audience became restless and, feeling somewhat respon- 
sible for the event, I wanted to help out. He did not define the 
mathematical symbols he used and I thought that if he explained 
them, it would help us to understand what he was trying to 

'Pauli,' I said, 'could you tell us again what your small a stands 
for ?' (The 'again' was sheer politeness; he had not in fact defined 

Pauli was flabbergasted by my question and stood there speech- 
less for a few seconds. However, he recovered. 

'Wigner,' he said, 'you just have to know everything.' The 
audience did not laugh. 


Scientific method 


From Modern The nature of scientific method is such that one must suppress 
^Iwif (Addfwn- one ' s h°P es an d wishes, and at some stages even one's intuition. 
Wesley) 1970 p 6. In fact the distrust of self takes the form of setting traps to expose 
one's own fallacies. Only when a successful solution has been 
found can one be permitted the luxury of deciding whether the 
result is pleasant or useful. The student of physics has his intuition 
violated so repeatedly that he comes to accept it as a routine 
experience. When quantum mechanics was first developed in the 
1920's in order to explain what had been observed in the labora- 
tory, the implications were extremely painful to the physicists. 
What had come to be (and are still thought by most people to be) 
basic principles of scientific philosophy had to be reluctantly 

Most laymen, when they contemplate the effect physics may 
have had upon their lives, think of technology, war, automation. 
What they usually do not consider is the effect of science upon 
their way of reasoning. Psychiatrists interpret much of the in- 
stability in the world today as a product of the destruction of 
man's myths, which have always been a source of security. Among 
these were the myth of absolute truth and absolute right, the 
myth of determinism and predictability, and particularly the myth 
of the infallibility of established authority, including finally the 
authority of science itself. 

It is customary to blame our sociological problems on the 
technological fallout resulting from the scientific revolution, but 
the really villainous act of science was the destruction of these 
myths. Furthermore, this time there are not even any new myths 
to replace the old ones. Man has recently discovered that the 
universe is not the beautifully structured machine his father and 
grandfather thought they lived in, and he is still reeling from the 


Sir Isaac Newton, a short time before his 

'I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I 
seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and 
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a 
prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all 
undiscovered before me.' 



The Institute of Physics and the compilers gratefully acknowledge 
permission to reproduce copyright material listed below. Every 
effort has been made to trace copyright ownership and to give 
accurate and complete credit to copyright owners but if, in- 
advertently, any mistake or omission has occurred, full apologies 
are herewith tendered. 

Addison-Wesley Publishing Co: from Modern Physics and Antiphysics by 
Adolph Baker 

American Association for the Advancement of Science: from Science 
American Institute of Physics: from Review of Scientific Instruments, Journal of 
the Optical Society of America, American Journal of Physics, Physics Today 

American Society for Metals : from Metal Progress 
Pamela Anderton: Which units of length? 

Associated Book Publishers, Chapman and Hall Ltd and the author: from 
Galois Theory by Ian Stewart 

Barnes and Noble Inc and Blackwell and Mott Ltd: from Flatland, a romance 
of many dimensions by Edwin A Abbott 

Blackwell and Mott Ltd : illustration from The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift 
Bowes and Bowes Ltd : from Postprandial Proceedings of the Cavendish Society 
California Alumni Association and John H Lawrence: from California Monthly 
Cambridge University Press and the author: from One Story of Radar by 
A P Rowe 

H B G Casimir: speech 

The Chemical Society : from their Proceedings 

The University of Chicago Press: from The Astrophysical Journal (copyright 
1945) and Enrico Fermi, Physicist (copyright 1970) 

Joel E Cohen : from On the nature of mathematical proofs 

Columbia University Press: from University Records of the Middle Ages by 
Lyn Thorndike 

Dover Publications Inc : from How to tell the birds from the flowers by R W Wood 
P J Duke: Snakes and Ladders 
V E Eaton : Yes, Virginia 

European Organization for Nuclear Research: from CERN Courier 
Laura Fermi : Arrogance in physics 
Gauthier Villars : from La Conference Solvay (Paris 1921) 
Reinhold Gerharz: from Solar eclipse 

Donald A Glaser: Getting bubble chambers accepted by the world of professional 

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc: from Dr Woodby William Seabrook, (copy- 
right 1941 by the author, 1969 by Constance Seabrook) 


Her Majesty's Stationery Office : from Admiralty Handbook of Wireless Tele- 
graphy {1931) 

Institut de Physique Theorique, Lausanne : from Helvetica Physica Acta 

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc: from Proceedings of 
the IRE 

The Institution of Electrical Engineers : from Students' Quarterly fournal 
Malcolm Johnson: Textbook selection 

R V Jones: The theory of practical joking, Building research and Self-frustration 
Paul Kirkpatrick: HA Rowland 

Paul E Klopsteg and the publishers: from Potpourri and Gallimaufry (copy- 
right 1963 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science) 

David Kritchevsky and R J Van der Wal : A conference glossary 

Edgar W Kutzscher : Walter Nernst 

A R Lang: photographs 

Martin Levin and The Saturday Review: from 'Phoenix Nest', Saturday Review 
L Mackinnon : Thermoelectric effect 
Macmillan Journals Ltd: from Nature 

Mactier Publishing Corporation : from EEE: The magazine of circuit design 

Mathematical Association of America: from American Mathematical Monthly 

James E Miller and the publishers : from American Scientist 

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford : photographs of Persian Astrolabe 

(IC 5 ) 

Robert A Myers and the publishers : from Physics Today 
National Physical Laboratory and 'Simplicius': from NPL News 
Negretti and Zambra Ltd: from their Encyclopaedic Catalogue 
New Statesman: poem 

The New Yorker Magazine Inc and the author: Perils of modern living by 
H P Firth (copyright 1956) 

The New Zealand Mathematics Magazine and the author: The uses of fallacy 
by Paul V Dunmore 

The Niels Bohr Institute, L Rosenfeld and O R Frisch: from fournal of 
f ocular Physics 

The Nonesuch Press Ltd : from The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll 
North-Holland Publishing Co and the author: The analysis of contemporary 
music using harmonious oscillator wave functions by H J Lipkin 

Jay M Pasachoff : poem 

The Plessey Company Ltd: photograph of lead tin telluride crystals, taken 
on the Cambridge Stereoscan at their Allen Clark Research Centre 

Prentice-Hall, Inc : from A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown 

Radio Corporation of America: from Electronic Age 

Arthur Roberts : poem 



Royal Greenwich Observatory: from The Observatory 

The Royal Institution: Gillray's print 'Scientific Researches' 

The Royal Society and N Kurti: from Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the 
Royal Society 

George H Scherr: from The Journal of Irreproducible Results 

Science Service Inc, Washington DC : from Science News (copyright 1968) 

Scientific American Inc: drawing of Antikythera machine, from 'An Ancient 
Greek Computer' by Derek J de Solla Price. Copyright © 1959 by Scientific 
American Inc. All rights reserved. 

Simon and Schuster Inc: from The Space Child's Mother Goose by Frederick 
Winsor and Marian Parry (copyright 1956, 1957, 1958) 

Philip A Simpson : Standards for inconsequential trivia 

Arthur H Snell: poem 

Derek J de Solla Price : photograph of Antikythera machine 
Springer- Verlag: from Die Naturwissenschaften 
Norman Stone: Face to face with metrication 

Studio International Publications Ltd and Jasia Reichardt: from Cybernetic 
Serendipity exhibition catalogue 

J Sykes and S Chandrasekhar: On the imperturbability of elevator operators 

Thames and Hudson Ltd: from Science in the 19th Century, editor Rene Taton 

University of Toronto Press, North-Holland Publishing Co and the author: 
from Elements of Conferencemanship by D H Wilkinson 

UNESCO:from Impact of Science on Society 

Robert Weinstock: Two classroom stories 

Dr P A Weiss and The Rockefeller University Press: Life on Earth {by a 

Eugene Wigner: Wolfgang Pauli 

WO R, N ew York : from The Answer Man 

D A Wright and The Worm Runner's Digest: A Theory of Ghosts